When the deal with UPC didn’t pan out, I contemplated putting out a contract on BS. The quotes were vastly more expensive than I could afford, and represented very bad value for money, so I scrapped the idea and went back to the drawing board. Option B (the deal with a broadband provider) didn’t work, but there was still option D (the traditional grind school idea).
Being acutely aware of the quantum of cash a south Dublin grind school was making, I decided I wanted a slice of this pie. I therefore proposed to the partners in OnlineGrinds.ie that we go back to basics and develop a traditional grinds school where we would hire the best teachers in the country to come into a traditional classroom setting to deliver low cost, high quality grinds.
Online vs. Traditional
Having given one-to-one French grinds for over ten years, it is very easy to distinguish the student who is doing grinds because the mammy wants them to, from the student who is doing the grinds off their own bat. The ratio is approximately 4:1, in my humble opinion. Therefore 4 out of every 5 students doing grinds are doing them because of their mammy. The mammy has never, and will never, be in favour of online grinds. Why? To some extent because of cyber bullying, to a greater extent because of social media, and most importantly, because of internet porn.
There is a lack of control when you send Johnny up to his room to learn. You might think he is getting a lesson from stentorian Dr Clarke, but in actual fact it could just as easily be Miss Johnson:
The mammy would much prefer to rock up to Leeson Street or the Stillorgan Park Hotel in her SUV and drop off the kids, thereby offloading the control to a professional human (as opposed to computer), for an hour or two. They would be much more prepared to pay for this than they would for an online grind. So, if online grinds are to work, it is only for the 1 in 5 student. Considering grinds are not a necessity, and given the broadband we have in this country (not to mention the technical incapability on our end) (SL), this made for pretty slim pickings when it came to the online grinds business model.
What I am going to say next is exceedingly important. Possibly one of the most important things you will read in this blog. It was my intention that we, i.e. Sean, BS and I, set up the traditional grind school TOGETHER. I gave them every opportunity to embark on this journey with me. I repeat, this time in bold, CAPITALISED and in an odd shade of violet:
I GAVE THEM EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO EMBARK ON THIS JOURNEY WITH ME.
As Sean was the only other director in the company, I sent him a business plan entitled ‘Proposal For Survival’. The basis of this plan was that we would go down the traditional route of human teaching, and broadcast the grinds online. Effectively, the money would come from the humans, and as we didn’t make any money from the online wing before, we probably wouldn’t here either, at least not for the next 80-90 years or so.
If I were to sum up Sean’s reaction in one word, I would use the word ‘meh’. For those of you who don’t know what this word means, here is the urban dictionary definition:
Given the fact that BS had unilaterally taken the decision to resign as director only a few weeks previously, I decided not to send him the business plan. Business plans are a privilege for directors only, and as BS had resigned, he was undeserving of this privilege.
When he got wind of the idea, he reacted in a similar vein to Sean, although his reaction was a little less indifferent. It veered more towards the negative. He did not want to divert from the business model of live and interactive grinds. He thought that this model worked just fine. But sure, why would he think any differently? If he had actually been present for more than one live grind, and actually in the country every now and then, he might have seen the light. But no, for some reason the Chief Technology Officer does not have to be present in the studio for live broadcasts (SL).
Another obvious reason (in my opinion) for his reluctance to embrace the new model was that it would most probably require extra work on his part.
Despite the fact that he wasn’t a director of the company, he still made his opinion on the traditional grind school be known. As you can see below in another one of his enchanting emails, he tells me I “need to park this offline school plan” and concentrate on “getting more money into the company”. He must have thought that the dwarves were bored shitless and needed something to do. In fact, I was convinced that his motivation for getting in more money was to keep the Ballymun bonfire alight and the dwarves in gainful employment. Surely he couldn’t have been as deluded as to think that there would be any other destination for this money???
Incidentally, he also reiterates that he has no intention of doing any more development work. See below (click to enlarge as usual):
Excuse me for a minute. I just need to pick myself up off the ground and settle into my seat again. Did I just read that he would be able to meet up at some point the week later? I mean, we wouldn’t have to wait a couple of months before we were graced with the presence of one of the most important partners in a company? The tech partner of a tech company?
Anyway, I am now left with a decision. Not an easy one. I founded a website. Took on a loser to develop it. The concept failed. We lost 64 grand. I now needed to start something new and get a return on my investment of nearly 3 years sweat equity as well as a return for our investor Sean, who put in €80k of his own money. A return for BS wasn’t top of my priority list, as a return implies that something was invested in the first place (SL).
So, my partners do not want to go down the road of a tried and tested model and start to actually make money for a change. They want to continue along the path of futility. What do I do? What I do is I truck on with the idea. If I can’t get my own partners to start the school with me because (a) they are not interested and (b) BS has clearly advised he is no longer willing to work, I find other people who are. Please note however that this did not mean for one minute that I was abandoning ship. I was intent on starting a traditional school but was not going to let my partners prevent me from doing so. Just because they didn’t want to join me didn’t mean I wanted to leave them. I had absolutely no intention of leaving OnlineGrinds.ie. Its success was still as important to me then as it was the day I founded it. Even if the lads didn’t buy into the traditional school idea, and despite the fact that BS was no longer willing to work, I was sure there were other avenues to explore with OnlineGrinds.ie, and miracles that could be performed therein.
But let me reiterate one more time, and my sincere apologies for my repetition, but it has to be said:
Regardless of whether Sean thought it was a good idea or not, given the fact that BS was not going to do any more work, there was NO WAY WHATSOEVER that the traditional grind school could be set up by Stenson Institute Ltd., trading as OnlineGrinds.ie. I had NO CHOICE but to look outside the company for help to achieve this goal.
So, I met with an actual web developer who shall remain nameless. For now let’s call him proper web dude (PWD). There was one main difference between BS and PWD; PWD was actually good. He was the type of guy I should have taken on in the first place. He was a hoody-wearing, idea-generating, beard-inhabiting, intelligent, bright, articulate guy. He was excited about challenges and could always find a way of developing whatever website functionality you wanted, regardless of the technical scope. He relished the challenges I gave him, and the ones he gave himself. He was an owner of the business. Its success was as important to him as it was for me. Whenever I gave BS a task to complete, he would reply with two words, “Phase Two”. Everything we wanted him to do was put on a list called “Phase Two tasks”. He would not work on any of these tasks until we entered Phase Two of development (SL). Needless to say Phase Two never came. With PWD, I would give him a task and it would usually be done sometime that afternoon.
So now that I had a PWD for the traditional grind school, we needed money. We put up a proposal on a number of investment networks and within a week or two we had an investor on board. He was younger than us, but had brains that were literally bursting out of his head. His head was a rather odd shape, but I always put this down to an over presence of neural tissue within his skull (SL). For the purposes of this, let’s call this man Mr Brain Box (MBB).
MBB was relatively square, certainly not the type of bloke you would find off his head at Electric Picnic. But where he lacked in his ability to let loose, he made up in multiple measures in his ability to compute and develop complex spreadsheets. He was an ace when it came to finance, and as tight as a granny’s crack. He would never pay a bill until at least the second demand. Even the money I spent on my lunch would be scrutinised and examined with a fine tooth comb. Gone were the days of going to Canal Bank Café for my usual staple lunch of chicken wings. It was a €3 chicken fillet roll in Spar from here on in. MBB was just what we needed.
This line up of PWD’s technical expertise, MBB’s financial competence and my semi-dangerous marketing skills, made for a pretty stellar team. Having come up with a number of different names for our business, we decided in the end to call it Learnology.
Next Chapter – Chapter 12: Learnology – Say Goodbye to EGGS