Four years ago I launched Bryan Alexander Consulting. BAC is how I translate my future of higher education work into real-world impacts. This post is one of the regular updates I’ve shared, in interests of transparency: so you can learn about the project, and so I can learn from you.
tl;dr – things are good. There are some challenges we need to deal with, and a range of interesting options to consider for the next twelve months.
First I’ll describe the overall picture, then the good things, then challenges, and end with some possibilities for the upcoming year. I’ve added more data in this post than in previous entries, including financials. This is a very rare amount of under-the-hood presentation for a consulting outfit or futurist.
BAC is technically a consulting firm (hence the “C”), but acts in many ways like a think tank. I give a lot of talks, both online and virtually, as I have done, and also produce a growing amount of media (books, videos, blog posts, etc).
It’s a very social enterprise. Every step of the way involves conversations with and input from medium to large numbers of people, from crowdsourcing feedback to networking clients to facilitating meetings and webinars.
The number of international clients and gigs is rising. During the past nine months I’ve worked in Iceland, Finland, Malta, Mexico, and Spain, and with an interesting range of organizations spanning multiple nations.
The number of clients is rising, approaching 100.
Revenue continues to stream in. Speaking engagements are by far the largest income source, followed by consulting assignments (which vary: research reports; workshops; meeting facilitation), then by media creation. The Patreon experiment is off to a good start. Sponsors for FTTE have grown to two.
Facilitation has emerged as a major service, and also something increasingly important to me, ethically and personally. That is separate from our main mission, the future of higher education.
Digital storytelling is another service, which sometimes engages me as a presenter, workshop leader, or content creator (i.e., writing a book).
And digital literacy has surfaced as another competency people want to tap.
Speaking of which, I made more stuff in 2016-2017 than before. The New Digital Storytelling, Revised Edition is due out this fall. My next book project proposal is before a fine publisher. FTTE continues to appear, growing to 1770 subscribers. The Forum keeps running in its second year, with more than 1499 people having participated. I blog (250-750 hits/day) and work in other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, podcasts). I’ve been interviewed in various media. Possibly I’ll add more next year (see below).
As my readers know, digital infrastructure is a major issue here in Vermont. The state and our ISP’s failures to provide sufficient broadband have driven us to move, a process that’s quite tedious and under way. Connectivity is also an issue when I travel, since airplanes, airports, hotels, trains, cars etc. either lack internet or provision it badly. Hopefully relocation will address the former. The latter worries me, given how ill fares US infrastructure.
This ties into some problems involved with media production. Obviously having lame “broadband” makes it more difficult to host videoconferences, not to mention downloading and uploading media. Our upload speeds are often ten times what’s available for download.
Two other problems have cropped up on this score. First, the sheer amount of time required for content production (don’t forget commuting hours, to reach a physical site capable of working in the 21st century); second, the problem of content sprawl. I now make reports, videos, blog posts, the occasional podcast, Twitter chats – it’s all too dis-integrated.
Income stream variability can also be a major challenge. Indeed, at times it looms largest. On the one hand, we have months when payments roar in; on the other, serious dearths. We wrestled with one client for promised payment for three months this year.
Here’s an example of revenue variability, using actual data from 2016 and this year through May (again, being transparent):
So there’s $15,500 coming in one month, then $3,000 in another. $11,000 in January, then barely $2,000 in February. That’s serious variability.
This becomes a growing challenge as our costs increase. Current plans to roll back the Affordable Care Act could boost our medical insurance costs. As Ceredwyn and I age, we are statistically likely to consume more health care. Our children are progressing through higher education (one graduated from university this year!), meaning our debt payments are rising (I’m still paying down mine). Moreover, since I passed 50 years of age, at some point I will be less able to work 70 hour weeks. So we’ll need to stabilize revenue somehow, either by smoothing out the monthly variations or accumulating a thick enough fiscal cushion to painlessly protect us during the trough months.
Possibilities for 2017-2018
Here are some strategic and tactical options we’re considering. They are numbered arbitrarily:
- Hosting a face to face event. This could be a one-day conference, unconference, or workshop. Maybe 2-3 days. The topic: the future of education. I’d love to try out some novel approaches to make an in-person gathering especially worthwhile and meaningful.
- Producing a podcast series on the future of education. It could be reacting to current trends, like a version of FTTE, or an analysis of trends, one per show.
- ” ” video series. Like #2, but with visual components.
- Setting up a new web site to organize all the things.
- Helping build a future of education tabletop game.
- Seeking an institutional affiliation along the lines of a fellowship.
- International growth could stall or reverse, depending on Trump’s actions and the world’s reactions.
- Hiring more people. Some could be on-demand, part time, for specific purposes. Others could help full time with growing demand.
- What should I do with facilitation?
- Increasing fees. Currently I charge $7500 for a keynote speech and $2500/day for consulting, plus expenses. Business logic suggests these should rise. That would yield either fewer engagements but about the same total revenue (good for my health), or the same (or greater) number and higher revenue (good for revenue variability).
- Setting up a retainer system. I would like to establish such an on-call relationship with a client – or formalize what nearly exists informally with some current ones.
What do you make of this update, friends?