Step Up Your Game, Increase Your Profit and Knock it Out of the Ball Park.


As an experienced veteran in the vocational for-profit higher education marketplace, I have worked with over 250 Vocational universities, colleges and schools in a marketing capacity as well as owning my own schools so I see both sides of the coin. I would like to share my experiences on how to step up your game, grow your gross revenue, increase EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization) margins, and plan an exit strategy to cash in on your efforts. 

Let us start with the problem. Most owners whom I have met in my career have been individuals who had an entrepreneurial spirit and the desire to change the lives of their students and their communities. They were most often embraced at the beginning of their careers by an old-timer in the business who taught them the tricks of the trade of for-profit education during their tenure working as a subordinate. They learned from seasoned veterans who had boots on the ground, hands on experience and knowledge about the ins and outs of every department in their vocational institutions. 

These aspiring entrepreneurs reached a point in their career where they decided to strike out on their own and either buy their mentors school, as they were retiring, or start one of their own. Rarely did any these budding new owners have a understanding of what it meant to own and operate an institution of higher learning. Until that point in their careers, they never had “skin in the game” and did not know what it meant to put their house up and take a second mortgage so that they could pay their employees’ salaries and sustain their school during tough times. In the context of owning and operating a business, having skin in the game means putting one’s own money on the line, which can be a significant motivator to ensure the success and profitability of the business. This is a very important lesson to learn and it changes the way that people do business once they have this understanding. 

The beginning is always rough on the newly minted and these new owners were tried in the crucible of government regulation, Title IV funding, National or Regional (if they were fortunate) accreditor oversight, cash flow issues, employing marketing skills to achieve student growth, student retention, default rates, 90/10, composite scores and a host of other issues. As the years went on these owners developed their own teams, brought in new students, and they saw their schools grow. This was accomplished by blood, sweat and tears where the school became the central focus of these entrepreneurial owners lives. For new owners either you are all in or you are out and there is no middle ground that will lead to success. 

In many cases as the knowledge-base increased so did the revenue and the EBITDA. For those who were unable to surf the daily issues of vocational education they closed their schools and faded into the distant horizon. In almost all cases the owners depended on Title IV programs to stay alive and rarely considered other options for generating revenue. As the years passed the owners became legends in their own mind, resisted adding new people to their teams who would challenge them and kept the old cadre of employees who were their yes-men. The result was that revenue and EBITDA flat lined; no new programs were added and owners basked in their wealth believing that the $500,000 to $4 million they earned annually was a windfall brought about by their wisdom and there was no way that they could increase revenue without moving outside of their area of comfort to look at new programs and employees to step up their game. 

Please understand that there is nothing wrong with a gross income of $500,000 to $4 million annually as only about 1.4% of US households have an income of $500,000 or more, and only about 0.002% of households have an income of $4 million or more. The owners were revered by their vendors, employees, students and community. Owners became ego driven, adverse to new ideas, risk adverse and lazy, cutting back their work week from 80 to 40 hour weeks so that they could play golf or spend more time with their families. The growth of a business never occurs when an owner becomes myopic in their outlook and refuses to accept that there is a more effective approach to run a business. 

The most important factor in growing any business is to keep an open but focused mind, have an exceptional team and associate with other owners and consultants who have successfully broken through the frozen EBITDA and revenue barriers and have grown their schools through branching, new program introduction, vocational ESL programs, U.S. Department of Education career pathways programs, reignited marketing for student acquisition, increase articulation agreements, technological innovation to improve student outcomes, hard-core admissions evaluations and creating a culture that is conducive to increasingly positive outcomes of students. These will be discussed in greater detail in future blogs. 

Let us start at ground zero. The goal of a for-profit vocational school is to provide students with the training and education they need to get a good job in order to be successful in their chosen careers, while also generating revenue for the school’s owners and his stakeholders. To achieve this goal, schools typically charge tuition and fees, and may also offer financial aid options such as student loans or scholarships. Let’s be clear about this, just about every school from Harvard to Henry’s welding school receive Title IV funds since most students entering a higher education environment especially vocational school students come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and do not have the wherewithal to pay the full fair themselves. Students receive financial aid from the federal government which they need to start repaying when they graduate and are gainfully employed. Most owners try to keep the price that they charge to students close to the amount that student receives from financial aid believing that a student who does not have the resources will not attend their school if the out-of-pocket ticket price is too high, so the owner settles for tuition cost which is competitive and inclusive. 

This is a big mistake brought about by a fundamental misunderstanding of the marketplace and what their students are willing to pay if the outcomes warrant they do so. If owners were more selective in the students that they accepted into their schools and to the programs that returned a much higher salary level for students upon graduation then the EBITDA, revenue and margins of return for the school would grow exponentially. Let’s be clear on this, most for profit vocational schools will accept a student regardless of a student’s motivation, maturity, level of literacy and math skills as long as they meet the admissions criterion. This strategy courts a never-ending downward spiral to disaster and needs to be reevaluated by each and every school. 

The strategy is motivated by the desire to succeed which can be translated into one word…Avarice, an excessive desire for wealth, possessions, or power beyond what is needed to live a comfortable life with a student centricity culture thrown out the door. Many for-profit school owners are driven by the pursuit of material wealth and often place their own interests above those of their students and staff. Don’t get me wrong there are also many school owners who care deeply about their students and employees. In some cases, some individual owners may engage in unethical or illegal activities to satisfy their desire for wealth or power, leading to harm to others or society as a whole. Closed schools such as ITT Technical Institute, Corinthian Colleges; Charlotte School of Law and Westwood College are names that will live in infamy for defrauding some students for their profit and are a testament to greed. 

To be very clear, students are customers, clear and simple, and need to be treated that way if a school is to succeed. Students need to be nurtured, upgraded, mentored, remediated, supportive, followed up on, encouraged, made interactive with faculty, staff and ownership, and most of all LOVED. Being student-centric means that a school or educational institution places the needs and interests of its students at the center of its decision-making and operations. This approach prioritizes the individual needs of each student and tailors the learning experience to meet those needs. A student-centric approach to vocational education recognizes that each student is unique, with their own strengths, weaknesses, interests, and learning styles. It involves providing personalized support and guidance to students to help them achieve their academic and personal goals. 

All students must be treated with the utmost respect regardless of their level of attainment at the time they enter the school. Educators at any vocational school must go down to the level of the student to communicate with them and then bring that student in increments up to the level of the teacher. That is the sign of a good school and a good teacher. There are no bad students, but there are bad teachers and schools. 

In a student-centric environment, the curriculum, teaching methods, and support services are designed to be responsive to the needs of the students. To make discriminative wealth in the school business requires that the customer be treated with utmost respect and dignity. This means that the school is constantly seeking feedback from students and making adjustments to ensure that the learning experience is engaging, relevant, and effective. Overall, a student-centric approach to education is focused on creating a supportive and inclusive environment where each student feels valued, supported, and empowered to achieve their full potential. 

A for-profit vocational school is similar to other service businesses in that it relies on providing high-quality services to attract and retain customers, in this case, students. The quality of service provided by a for-profit vocational school can have a significant impact on its reputation, as well as on its ability to attract new students and retain existing ones. Parenthetically, a good reputation can add $10 million to the sale price of a vocational school. Therefore, it is important that the school creates a positive and supportive learning environment that fosters student success. This can be achieved through a range of actions, such as providing personalized support and guidance, being responsive to student feedback, offering a range of support services, and creating a positive and inclusive learning environment. Ultimately, students are more likely to feel satisfied with their experience at a for-profit vocational school if they feel that the school cares about them and is committed to their success. This can lead to increased retention rates, positive word-of-mouth recommendations, and an overall better reputation for the school. 

Schools need to treat students as customers and to be selective in the students they accept into their schools and programs. Saying no and being selective of students that are accepted is essential to growth and profitability. When a school reaches an inflexion point where their reputation, programs offered, job placement at high salaries, and employer involvement in externships are solidified they can raise tuition by 100% to 150% and still have a waiting list of students who want to attend the school. This increases the gross revenue of a school dramatically with EBITDA margins increasing by 100+%. Profit in vocational higher education is all about student centricity and I will continue this blog as it is the 1st of a 6-part series in the Step Up Your Game, Increase Your Profit and Knock It Out of The Ball Park series of blogs. 

In summary, to be successful in the for-profit vocational school business, owners need to understand the challenges and opportunities, be open to new ideas and approaches, and prioritize student-centricity to create a positive and supportive learning environment that fosters student success which increases Revenue, EBITDA, and R.O.I. (Return On Investment). 


To all those wide-eyed millennials looking for a break


It breaks my heart to see millions of millennials still chasing rainbows and hoping that the US government or a cartoon character such as Berne Sanders or crooked Hillary Clinton were ever going to change their lives.

Maybe it is time to grow up folks and grow some too and realize that no one is going to take care of you other than yourself if you want to build anything meaningful in your life….whether nailing a big corporate job or creating your own empire. NO ONE. So get used to it, life is not fair and this will never change.

Ever since the paleolithic era we’ve been fighting over scarce resources. Whether this was food, shelter or trendy sabretooth skirts.

Times have changed – but the essence remains the same; it’s resources we’re after.

Money mainly.

In the old days, we used to have a trading system where hunters would trade their catch with fishers for example. This is an equal exchange of value of differently skilled people.

The same concept still applies today. Money simply has made trading your entire life easier.

This system allows us to tap into the expertise of others. The more difficult the task, the more money they get.

Being able to do what others cannot is what makes you “valuable”.

Anyone can sell shoes, anyone can run behind a dumpster truck, anyone can sell fast-food. But not everyone knows how to build a house, lay electrical wiring or perform an open-heart-surgery. The more difficult and in-demand your skills are – the higher your value will rise.

If you want more income – You have to deserve it first.


By building up difficult skills that are high in demand based on your strengths….Nothing else will do it

This means that the barrier of entry for competitors will be high (less competition) and you work in a field where your skills are highly valued.

Additionally, building on strength gives you an “edge” on others….Sounds sweet right?

So what are strengths? Have you ever asked yourselves this question?

Strengths are the things we naturally excel at – the things that come “naturally” to us.

How Do I Find My Strengths?

You find strength through self-analysis

The best way I’ve found to do this is by keeping a journal of my life in which I’m able to spot different trends. Over time you’ll be able to hone down on what you’re really good at.

Here are three ways to discover your strengths:

1. Self-Assessment

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when looking for your personal strengths:

  • In what did I grow up around? Competence can arise from early practice, what types of activities were you involved in as a child?
  • What do strangers compliment me on? You/your direct surroundings often notice your natural strengths faster than you do. Just ask around.
  • What did I want to become as a child? What were the underlying trends?
  • What have I been doing the last 10 years? Competence comes from doing a certain thing for a long period of time.
  • What can I effortlessly talk about without losing drive? An interesting topic is most likely something you’re highly skilled at or highly interested in.
  • What are the things I effortlessly excel at? What activities come easy for you?
  • In what areas do I learn quickly? Some skills are perfectly suited to our temperament and therefore we’re able to pick these up much faster than others.
  • Who do I envy/admire? Jealousy is a nasty but beautiful emotion as it shows us what we truly want. The same goes for admiration.

2. Reading

Furthermore, a great book that will help you find more strengths is Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker

Read the summary and define for yourself:

  • Am I a reader or a listener?
  • How do I learn best?
  • Do I work well with others or do I perform better alone?
  • Do I produce results as decision maker or as an adviser?
  • Do I perform well under stress or do I need a structured environment?

Alright – what’s next?

3. Personality Tests

A great way to explore further is by doing some personality tests (although they are often too general – it’s quite likely that they’ll give you some more career-indicators)

Here are the ones I recommend:

  • MBTI-test
  • DISC-assessment
  • Enneagram

Learn more about each type by simply Googling the results you’ve gotten.

Put all of these answers in a separate word-sheet and try to determine for yourself the answer to this question;

How can I combine my skills (based on strength) and my interests to solve a need for other people?

Going Deeper

In our current information society it might be not enough to be simply highly skilled in only one particular field. The combination of different, highly valued skills is also often what elevates your value.

Here’s some other tips to prepare for the future:

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make Assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

Keep track of global trends. Where is the world going and how can I prepare for this? Especially the technological boom is very prominent – stay ahead of the robots!

Work for yourself. Everyone will need to become an entrepreneur in the future

The world is your oyster …. Just because the past didn’t turn out like you wanted it to, doesn’t mean the future can’t be better than you ever imagined.


The world is an inherently competitive place. You’ll need an edge to become indispensable & the only way to become indispensable is to excel at things others cannot do.

Of course competence at a skill will lead to enjoying the activity more – enjoying it more means you’ll be doing it more which in turn makes you more competent.

It’s an endless loop.

Eventually you’ll start to LOVE it and it’ll become your “passion”. So don’t go searching for something until it “feels just right” but create it by building on strengths. Don’t waste time and energy on an endless passion-chase.

Note: Strengths are solely performance indicators (not unchangeable truths). So don’t obsess about them. You can still “be whoever you want to be”, but you won’t perform optimally if you build your life on weakness. It can be stretched – just not indefinitely.

So tell me; what are your strengths?

I hope this personal analysis is timely for you. There’s so much wasted time & energy (and frustration) in fields where we just don’t have a natural advantage in. And the world is simply too much of a competitive place not to use this.

Now that you know the basics, go for the kill and never look back.

The BEST revenge is “OBSCENE WEALTH”.


Is the Intellectual Elite Out of Touch with Reality?


It has been a central conceit of the progressive movement since the early 1900’s that simply getting enough smart people together will cure all our problems.

This is the approach of technocracy — rule by experts.  We tried it.  Wilson and his ilk “solved” the problem of world peace after WWI, Kennedy and his brain trust “solved” the Bay of Pigs crisis with Cuba, Reagan and his A-Team of savvy business people “broke down” the Soviet Union, George W. Bush and his close circle of neo-cons “prevailed” over evil in the Middle East.

All of them with their elite “Ivy leaguers” thought they were going to redraw the maps of the globe.  All what they did was create a bigger mess than ever in every single corner of the globe…. We’re still cleaning up the mess in the Middle East caused by acts of hubris and years of “rookie” foreign policy. We now have practically every country in the world on our back resenting our actions after having lost all trust in us to say  the least…. and this is just the beginning.

Other examples — ones that some would rather forgot — include the progressive eugenics movement, the attempt to purify the blood lines and improve the race via forced sterilization, birth control, etc….  Fortunately for us it never took off as much in the United States as it did in other countries.

It is high time to wake up and start realizing that very smart men, with PhD’s and holding distinguished chairs at elite universities does not mean that all intellectuals are wrong, but it does mean that mere academic pedigree is an insufficient credential for developing public policy.

The conservative position is that tradition embodies the collective intelligence — the best of what has been thought and done — over generations, and it deserves to be given its due weight, that human social systems are extremely complex and that unintended consequences often outweigh good intentions.   This does not mean that we never change, but it does imply that we imperfectly understand how society actually works and that human nature is not infinitely malleable.

Conservatives are not opposed to intelligence, but they lack the naivetĂ© needed to trust that intelligence alone solves real-world social/political problems.  Ultimately we must relate to each others as persons, as real flesh and blood individuals, not as abstractions of the intellect.  Where society has lost touch with this it has caused the greatest misery.

As Thomas Sowell’s book, “Intellectuals and Society” states:.

“If you have an elite that thinks the voters are stupid, then the voters end up just being their political plaything. Notice as well that the political effort to hide details from voters influences how the policy is implemented, which is going to have both intended and long-term unintended consequences.  If voters try to make an intelligent argument, they are rebuffed and suppressed, because the elite think of themselves as the smartest people in the room, and they don’t want anyone contesting them”.

Precisely what’s happening today during the 2016 Presidential elections. Anyone outside the “elite Establishment” is a plain idiot who does not know what he/she is talking about. Anyone inside the “beltway” is someone we should closely listen to… How far from the truth.

Another issue I have with the intellectual elite is that they don’t engage in quality leadership.  They think that just saying what the research says is correct is sufficient for leadership and governance.  However, with a large diversity of population, you have to more directly engage in cultivating relationship and explaining policy.  You never liked it when you parents just dictated policy versus explaining it.  Voters are no different.

Leadership, particularly at large scales like government, isn’t about telling people what to do, it’s about bringing people with you.  If you aren’t bringing people with you, you functionally aren’t leading.

Communication is a key part of politics in our age.  And the relational and EQ piece of the overall leadership package is critical if you want to be a real representative of the people.

The intellectual elite are generally significantly smarter than average, but they also tend to (depending on how you look at it) either underestimate the difficulty of solving large complex problems, or overestimate their ability to reason through them.

Their egos write checks their intellects cannot cash.

My hope would be that political leaders one day develop the good judgement to know when to call on intellectual elites and when not to.

I would say we do want an intellectual elite contributing to society, but we would benefit a lot from more epistemological humility from many of them.

Share your thoughts….


Why Financial Education?


It is a sad fact today that most people starting with students are financially illiterate.

Here are some sobering facts:

  • The average score on a freshman “financial literacy exam” was 59%, according to the JumpStart Coalition.
  • The average student has roughly $23,000 in student loans, $4,000 in credit card debt and four credit cards.
  • An average of 7% percent of graduates default on their student loans within the first few years.

Here’s what students are begging to understand:

  • 84% say they need more education on financial management, according to Sallie Mae.
  • 62% say their knowledge of credit reports is either fair or poor, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
  • 60% have only a vague understanding of their debt, according to

So what can we – as parents, activists and educators do?

Start talking

Dedicate a portion of your time with your children and financially illiterate friends to money. Encourage them to share their struggles and successes. They like hearing from one another. They trust each other. Because people generally aren’t as comfortable talking about money as we are other topics, it’s important to foster these important discussions. Pushing people to get outside of their comfort zone will make the experience more memorable and more effective in their drive toward financial independence.

Bring problem-solving to the discussion

Feeding young and even older minds financial facts does little to increase financial intelligence. The trick is engagement. Researchers from the JumpStart Coalition found that financial literacy is really a measure of problem-solving ability rather than a mere awareness of financial facts.

Establish and nurture identity

It is a fact that when you lose your identity, you stall growth. You face closing doors. You lose freedom. The same is true for financial identity. Most people don’t know how to effectively budget, manage their debt loads, or save. If they’re lucky enough to find jobs, they face starting salaries that have remained stagnant for more than a decade. Yet, if they can learn the basics of money management and problem-solve their way out of sticky financial situations, to be their own financial advocates, and learn where to get help they’ll be more likely to find success.

Bottom Line:

Most of us are not doctors but know what to do to take care of our health. We get this knowledge from our parents, peers, our regular reading, TV etc…. We try as far as possible to follow the advice on balanced diet, Exercise, rest, and minimize/ eliminate bad habits like smoking and drinking. I would like to think of “financial education” in the same way. We all need money to ensure a good life and we need to take care of it. You don’t have to be a mathematics or financial genius to understand this. Here are my basics:

  1. Live within your means. Ensure you can pay for what you buy.
  2. If you borrow money ensure you can pay the EMI. Check to see if you can still pay for it if interest rates were to rise/ you were to lose your job.
  3. Protect what you have. Insure your life, Health and assets. You wouldn’t leave your house unprotected, don’t do it with your life or health.
  4. Plan your future expenses like child education, buying a home, Retirement etc….. See how much you need and save accordingly. There are plenty to tools that will give a good estimate of what you need.
  5. Inflation would eat into your savings, so invest in something that will give a long term return higher than inflation.
  6. Last but most important. Stay away from get rich quick schemes. Getting a good physique is a long term & constant effort, so is accumulating wealth. Get rich quick schemes are like steroids they will do more harm than good.

Most people can understand and follow these rules. Of course you may need advice from professionals from time to time, but subject the professional advice to test of reason ability. If the advice is too good to be true, it probably is.

Share your thoughts…