Ten years on from the launch of ClassCover, our Co-Founder and CEO, Ben Grozier reflects on the lessons he’s learned from ten years in the game.
If you had told me ten years ago when we first launched this crazy idea what we would go on to achieve, I probably would have told you to take a hike. Ten years is an eternity in the tech world, and to be here continuing to innovate and grow after all that time is an achievement in itself. Add to that the fact that we’ve grown to over 2,300 schools and 80,000 teachers on our platform and I’m filled with pride in how far we’ve come and what lies ahead. To mark this occasion I thought I would share ten of the biggest things I’ve learned over the past ten years. Buckle up!
1. Talent matters, but not as much as hard work
No matter what your path in life, whether you are trying to wrangle a classroom of boisterous 14-year-olds or close a career-making deal, talent helps. There’s no doubt about that. For me, coming from an education background, I was confident that I had the talent and the know-how to create a product that the industry needed. What the past decade has taught me, is how much more is involved.
I’m lucky to be surrounded by one of the best teams in the business. But through talent alone, we would not have been able to achieve the massive milestones we’ve ticked off, including the launch of our new tutoring platform and partnerships with The Smith Family, the NRMA and the New South Wales Department of Education, to name a few. This year alone, we’ve also rolled out a bunch of new features on our core platform — more on that here.
While talent and hard work will lead you to create a business or a product, in order to create something that people truly love, you need empathy. Empathy for your users, for your team and for your industry as a whole. And that’s something that can’t be taught.
2. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes (as long as you learn from them)
When you’re in the startup business, mistakes are inevitable. In fact, they are a sign that you are pushing the boundaries and working towards something new. This isn’t only relevant to the world of technology, by the way. No matter what industry you work in — education, sales, non-profits — you shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Why? Because they are a sign that you are in unchartered territory. And in my experience, that’s where the magic happens.
As a business, we have made our fair share of mistakes over the past decade and learned the lessons that go along with them. While some of them were hard to swallow at the time, looking back, they have all helped build the fantastic product we have today.
3. In a sea of followers, be an innovator
One thing you learn pretty quickly in the tech world is just how many people are doing things because they saw someone else doing it first. That’s true for life in general. I believe it’s not enough to have an innovative product unless you have the mindset to go with it. Think about it. Even if you’re at the forefront of your industry, a cutting-edge product can only go so far unless you have creative minds behind it helping push that product and help it continually evolve.
4. Your friends and family are your biggest cheerleaders, but you shouldn’t go to them for feedback
I get it. When you pour so much of your heart and soul into something — a business, an art project, anything — it can be hard to hear criticism about it. Maybe that’s why it’s instinctive to go to those closest to us for feedback. Just like it’s impossible to look at something we’ve created ourself objectively, the opinions of our friends and family also tend to be murky at best. They love us after all and saying a business proposal isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on doesn’t come naturally.
Take it from me. If you want to save yourself some time and find out if there is an actual market for your idea, skip your friends and family and go straight to the masses to find out whether it has legs. Your potential customers are the best people to tell you if it’s good or not, and I guarantee they won’t sugar coat it.
5. Stay curious
One of the questions I get asked all the time is how we manage to stay relevant in an industry that moves as fast as technology. (10 years is a lifetime in this game!) For me, it all boils down to continued education. To stay at the forefront of an industry like technology, you have to stay curious and be open to new ways of doing things. I do this by reading anything and everything, listening (to our users, my team, others in the industry) and putting myself in situations where I will learn from others. Never be afraid to not be the smartest person in the room.
6. People-centric industries (like education) are the ones that need tech the most
Much noise has been made over the years about the impact the introduction of technology has on an industry and those working in it. The fear that tech will steal a persons’ job is unfounded, in education anyway. The face of the matter is, we’re always going to need casual teachers and the people who book them.
I will admit that introducing technology into an industry as personable as education can be a tricky balance. Teaching is all about relationships and rapport. Love and care. This means more time interacting with your students and spending as little time as possible detached and on a screen entering data. Technology should most often be a silent partner (as much as possible) in the classroom. An enhancer but not the main show. The aim with platforms like ClassCover is to limit unnecessary tasks to give school executives and school admins more time to focus on more important tasks — like running the school.
7. Where you come from helps shape your future, but doesn’t define it
Thinking back, I was probably always going to wind up as an entrepreneur. Growing up, my Dad worked in small business so I think the passion and excitement I saw from him and his career imprinted on me early on. I think these days the term entrepreneur gets thrown around a bit too much, but if you define it as someone who identifies a solution to a problem or finds a better way of doing things, I’m happy to wear that label.
Having said that I truly believe that only you have the power to shape your direction in life. You just have to be willing to work for it.
8. It takes a strong team to admit they don’t know everything
Show me employees that are comfortable saying ‘I need help,’ ‘I was wrong’ and ‘I don’t know’ and I’ll show you an awesome team. I’m proud to be surrounded by just that. A small, lean team full of highly skilled people who have my complete trust. This supercharges our progress. I see myself more as a ‘Chief Snow Plough,’ creating the pathway by trying my best to open up opportunities. I then smooth the road forward by removing annoying barriers so that the team, who are way better at their skill than I am, can do amazing work.
9. COVID has been a blessing in disguise for this industry
Okay, okay. Hear me out here. For decades, teachers and the teaching profession have been completely misunderstood and often unfairly maligned by those who had never stepped foot in a classroom since they finished Year 12. What Covid has done is to allow teachers to showcase just how loving, hardworking and innovative they are and the fact that they are not this way due to lofty salaries but for the love of teaching.
10. For education, the best is yet to come
Looking back at the past 10 years I am blown away by the amount the education space has evolved. In particular, I am thrilled at the role technology has played in improving processes and ultimately creating a better experience for everyone.
Looking ahead, there is so much in store for ClassCover. One area we are focusing on is the idea of a “deep job” platform built specifically for the education space. Ultimately what we want to do is save time for both teachers and schools, better connect candidates with positions that are suited to them and create a digital space for educators to network and call home. Stay tuned for more on that!
To celebrate our birthday, schools can try ClassCover for 25% off your first year. As always, teachers can create a profile for free.