by Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, Independent Educational Consultants Association
Last week, IECA held its first-ever Winter Retreat for Professional Members. Focused on business issues, the Retreat attracted 45 participants. While attendees learned about legal issues with an incredible presentation by Art Beck, as well as sessions on expansion, marketing, and more, I discovered that the small, relaxed environment helped me to better understand those in the profession…even after 19 years as Executive Director.
- Independent Educational Consultants (IECs) are thirsty for knowledge. Sessions were busy, discussions lively, and in between, members sought advice, answers, and raised new questions. When itcomes to a hunger for knowledge, IECA members never suffer famine.
- IECs want to connect. What I saw throughout was the desire of IECA members to share both with long-time colleagues and those they met at the opening dinner. Perhaps it’s the nature of those called to the profession, but there was no doubt that attendees wanted opportunities to connect.
- IECs are passionate about their work, and I don’t mean running a small business. They care deeply about their students and families, and believe—to their core—in the empowerment that comes when a teen lands in the right environment for them.
- IECs are current. Perhaps it is rooted in the steady stream of adolescents that come and go, but whether in their 30s or 70s, attendees used free time to Skype with clients, tag pictures on the IECA Facebook page, take notes on their iPads, check out new software or a new app suggested by a colleague, and more.
- IECA members are embracing their new role as business leaders. Just a few years ago I was convinced that the greatest overall impediment to the success of the profession would be the desire of members to eschew business skills, preventing growth both individually and collectively. Not those in Charleston. I saw members seeking new and creative ways to expand offerings, grow their business, professionalize their materials, and seek new hires.
- Clients are always on the brain. It could be at a cocktail reception hosted by a college, or an exploration of a building arts program, or during a cooking class, or between courses at dinner, or in cab rides to the airport. Whenever two or more IECs gather, discussion quickly turns to clients: tough cases, unusual needs, fascinating campus discoveries. Discussions rarely strayed far from a focus on students.
- There’s a loyalty to IECA that is inspiring. As the field becomes better known, as client rosters fill, as new resources and opportunities arise specific to their needs, IECs remain fully committed to membership—and in enhancing—their Association. I was approached dozens of times by attendees at the Retreat with ideas about future programs, conferences, webinars, Web site improvements, accolades, and suggestions. That interest in improvement is a sign of a healthy organization that has the support of its members.
- IECs are, well, smart. Deep insights, creative approaches, and introspection about the field were common. But so were connections to larger political and economic realities, to new books and theories, to international development, and new technological advancements.
- IECA members believe deeply in putting kids first. Discussions gave rise to emotional pleas about a wide range of issues: from gun violence to career advising. Through it all, the only constant regardless of topic, was an overwhelming concern for the welfare of children. And by this I mean more than clients—I mean ALL children.
- The profession is thriving. IECA is thriving. At a time when other Associations are shrinking, when they are contracting the number of programs, planning for smaller and fewer educational opportunities, IECs seek more, not less. While the Retreat was going, the Spring Conference reached a record early-bird registration. I had just reported to the Executive Board records as well in our webinar attendance, and we reported on sold-out campus tours this week in Los Angeles and in Chicago. This week’s Link ‘n Learn program (jointly planned with NATSAP) was another sell-out and membership in IECA is nearing 1,100. Membership requirements have never been lessened in the name of growth, rather increasing numbers rise to meet existing standards. Based on items 1-9 it is no wonder that increasing numbers meet that threshold.
I may not have left Charleston with the same information as our attendees. What I left town with was a deeper and more passionate view of not just the profession, but also the remarkable individuals who are moving it forward.