For years and years we were this little company most nobody knew about, selling some at-risk youth materials, promoting this new process called Professional Learning Communities and putting on a few conferences. We weren’t on anyone’s radar, and to be honest, we really didn’t give a rip about what the ‘big guys’ were doing. I don’t mean Pearson and McGraw Hill, I mean ASCD, NSDC and Corwin Press type companies. They were the big guys to us.
My opinion was if we were going to survive we needed to prove to the authors we were working for them, and that we were going to help them succeed and reach their potential and their dreams. Every day we needed to prove ourselves to them. Obviously we watched trade magazine and journals to learn the business, but we didn’t really track competition or try to emulate anyone. We didn’t set our sites to be the next XYZ, and we really didn’t focus on what any of our so-called peers were doing. We were just too dang busy paddling to keep the boat a float to pretend we were going to be better than someone else at their game.
As the years have passed we got better and better at what we do, and we decided who we really wanted to be by defining our mission, vision, values and goals. We had proven success in building the Solution Tree model, and we used our successes to gain the respect of new as well as established authors. But don’t get me wrong, I’m like a depression era baby. I worry daily that we are vulnerable to our own weaknesses, that we may be luckier than good, and it can all end tomorrow. But I don’t worry a bit about what anyone else is doing.
I know this isn’t a quote blog, but here is one I like that clearly parallels our approach to business.
I don’t try to dance better than anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself.
Now I was a swimmer in high school. A really good swimmer for La Porte High School. But let’s be honest, it was La Porte, Indiana and we swam at the YMCA. Our coach was a former football player who couldn’t swim. But one thing Coach Tonsoni taught each of us was that we needed to swim faster than ourselves each week. Set a new PR each race. What a great life lesson taught by one of my heroes.
Today our peers seem to be attempting to emulate us. Business plans are called “The Solution Tree Model’. A major ‘true publishing’ company just announced their ‘new’ approach to helping schools improve by selling books, PD and events. Hmmm that sounds familiar. Two others are using Solutions in their catalog titles. Hmm haven’t we been calling our catalog Solutions since 2003. Our color palate and typeface is now being duplicated, almost identically, by one of the major non-profits in their print ads. A software company is starting a publishing division and offering PD, and has hired a former employee of Solution Tree to head their efforts. Another PD company has just hired two of our former staff to lead their sales team and recruit our Authors and Associates away from just working with Solution Tree. And the list goes on.
We are HONORED. Seriously HONORED. We really don’t care what they do, who they hire, or how they look. They can all try to be like us or anyone else. In fact I will tell anyone and everyone exactly what we have done to get to where we are today. Doesn’t mean I am going to tell them what we are going to do…and I don’t care what they have done, because it has been done.
Solution Tree doesn’t have an exclusive with a single Author or Associate, and we never will. We will prove ourselves each and every day, and we will advance our authors work, so that their work helps educators. Heck, that is why we do it…but you knew that.