Why go abroad?

As I have said, with almost as much boring redundancy as our Mission Statement, our Vision Statement is:

Transform education world-wide to ensure learning for all.

Here are the group of men I just spent three days with earlier this week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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There are an equal number of woman at the training, in an neighboring room. The Saudi culture divides the population into separate gender trainings.

Tom & Susan (in her Abaya) Many, are two world class presenters and educators, who kicked off the first of four workshops introducing the PLC process to Cohort #1.  They did a phenominal job of working with translators and dealing with cultural issues.  I can not imagine anyone working harder or being more successful in introducing this work.


At a my meetings outside of the workshop, I was presenting our plans for future professional development in the region, and one high ranking official asked me “Why do you want to expand to Saudi Arabia, isn’t the United States big enough for your company?”  Wow, that one took me off guard. The good news is the honest answer was easy.

“Because it is our vision, why we are doing what we do.  It would be easier to focus solely on the US, and probably more profitable.  But if what we have at Solution Tree truly works, and it does, then why would we keep the secret to ourselves.  Why would we not share what has been proven successful in our country with others, and give our Authors an international platform to help kids succeed all over the world?”

In reality, we could downsize the company and only focus on PLC work, making my life a lot less complicated and the company potentially more profitable.  But the other areas in which we publish and provide professional development are important to real school improvement too.  We truly offer the highest quality opportunities for authors to take their passions and put it into the hands of educators who are begging for tested, proven and implementable solutions. So why wouldn’t we go global?

International work is expensive, it is an investment, and most always takes a long time before we see any significant financial gains, but we do see immediate personal advancement in teachers, schools, and districts which leads to significant gains in student achievement. And THAT is why we do it.


Quote on the question of “How”.

The answer to how, is yes.


I know it is frustrating, but all answers/obstacles can be solved.  If you don’t now how to solve it, get help and figure it out.  Sorry, but the first response if not “I can’t”, “I don’t know”, and certainly not “I give up”.

When I was at Tufts University, I had a boss, Dr. Tom Murnane, who would respond to obstacles with,

You’re clever.  You’ll think of something.

And 99% of the time, he was right.

What’s In A Name?

When we began running Solution Tree in 1998 the name of the company was National Educational Service, NES.  NES has been started in 1987 and somewhere around 1995 a trademark infringement happened with National Evaluation Systems who owned NES.  They worked out how to live together with both having the same acronym and went about their merry ways.  Problem is the previous owners kind of forgot to tell us.   So in 1999 I stepped in it knee-deep, and then in 2004 when we were really getting some traction, and they were being acquired, they stalked until they found two infractions and sued us for $5,000,000.  Heck, it could have been $5 Billion, made no difference. So we joyfully embraced the option of choosing a new name.

We were certainly not in the position of hiring a firm like Michael Cronan and Associates whom you pay big bucks to help you pick company or product names.  One of their biggies is Amazon’s Kindle.  So we went about it in a much more fun and collaborative way. Internally.

We bought a naming software, we surveyed staff, authors, associates, family and friends. We narrowed and re-surveyed, and voted, then realized we need to start all over again, and eventually we had consensus among the staff to re-name and re-brand the company Solution Tree.  A two word name, not easy to become another educational organization acronym, and one that truly fits who we are and what we do.

There is a lot in a name.  To launch a new book, event or digital product you real need to think it through, have fun, shelve the discussion and come back, and possibly go with your initial instinct.  You will know when it is right.  We did with Solution Tree.  Hope we are equally as successful with the upcoming launch of Global PD.  We’ll see!