Do You Know How to Be an Engaging and Highly Effective Educator?

Anyone can teach. We teach each other every day. For example, we give instructions to each other for such things as cooking, putting together furniture, and completing household other tasks. However, teaching someone is different than the process of educating someone. Consider the difference between informal learning and formal learning. An example of informal learning would be following a recipe to learn how to cook. In contrast, formal learning occurs within a classroom and usually is accompanied by evaluation and assessment. It may seem that teaching and educating are the same thing; however, the difference has to do with the place or context for learning.This is the same distinction can be made for teaching informally (giving instructions) and teaching students in a formal classroom environment. A person enters the field of education as a profession – either full time in traditional academic institutions or as an adjunct (or part time) instructor. The reasons vary for why someone would choose to be in the classroom. A traditional full time professor may likely be responsible for conducting research, teaching, and publishing scholarly work. An adjunct instructor may teach in a community college, traditional college, or an online school. When someone teaches students in higher education he or she may be called a facilitator, instructor, or professor. This is important as there isn’t a job with the word educator in the title.The questions I would like to answer include: What then does it mean to be an educator? Does it signify something different than the assigned job title? What I have learned through my work in higher education is that becoming an educator is not an automatic process. Everyone who is teaching adult students is not functioning as an engaging and highly effective educator. However, it is possible to learn how to educate rather than teach and that requires making a commitment to the profession.What Does It Mean to Teach?Consider teaching as part of the system of traditional, primary education. Those classes are teacher-led and children as students are taught what and how to learn. The teacher is considered to be the expert and directs the learning process. A teacher is someone who is highly trained and works to engage the minds of his or her students. This style of teacher-led instructional continues into higher education, specifically traditional college classrooms. The teacher still stands at the front and center of the class delivering information, and students are used to this format because of their experience in primary education. The instructor disseminates knowledge through a lecture and students study to pass the required examinations or complete other required learning activities.Within higher education, teachers may be called instructors and they are hired as subject matter experts with advanced content knowledge. The job requirements usually include holding a specific number of degree hours in the subject being taught. Teachers may also be called professors in traditional college classes, and those positions require a terminal degree with additional research requirements. For all of these roles, teaching is meant to signify someone who is guiding the learning process by directing, telling, and instructing students. The instructor or professor is in charge, and the students must comply and follow as directed. Here is something to consider: If that is the essence of teaching, is there a difference between that and educating students? Is the role of a teacher the same as that of an educator?What Does It Mean to be an Educator?Consider some basic definitions to begin with as a means of understanding the role of an educator. The word “education” refers to giving instruction; “educator” refers to the person who provides instruction and is someone who is skilled in teaching; and teaching is aligned with providing explanations. I have expanded upon these definitions so that the word “educator” includes someone who is skilled with instruction, possesses highly developed academic skills, and holds both subject matter knowledge and knowledge of adult education principles.Skilled with Instruction: An educator is someone who should be skilled in the art of classroom instruction, knowing what instructional strategies are effective and the areas of facilitation that need further development. An experienced educator develops methods that will bring course materials to life by adding relevant context and prompting students to learn through class discussions and other learning activities. Instruction also includes all of the interactions held with students, including all forms of communication, as every interaction provides an opportunity for teaching.Highly Developed Academic Skills: An educator must also have strong academic skills and at the top of that list are writing skills. This requires strong attention to detail on the part of the educator and in all forms of messages communicated, including anything written, presented, and sent via email. The ability to demonstrate strong academic skills is especially important for anyone who is teaching online classes as words represent the instructor.The use of proper formatting guidelines, according to the style prescribed by the school, is also included in the list of critical academic skills. For example, many schools have implemented APA formatting guidelines as the standard for formatting papers and working with sources. An educator cannot adequately guide students and provide meaningful feedback if the writing style has not been mastered.Strong Knowledge Base: An educator needs to develop a knowledge base that contains subject matter expertise, as related to the course or courses they are teaching, along with knowledge of adult education principles. I know of many educators who have the required credit hours on their degree transcripts, yet they may not have extensive experience in the field they teach. This will still allow these educators to teach the course, provided that they take time to read the course textbook and find methods of applying it to current practices within the field.Many schools hire adjuncts with extensive work experience as the primary criteria, rather than knowledge of adult learning principles. Those instructors I have worked with who do have a strong adult education knowledge base generally acquired it through ongoing professional development. That was my goal, when I decided on a major for my doctoral degree, to understand how adults learn so that I could transform from an instructor to an educator.Becoming an Engaging and Highly Effective EducatorI do not believe that many instructors intentionally consider the need to make a transformation from working as an instructor to functioning as an educator. When someone is hired to teach a class, someone other than a traditional college professor, they often learn through practice and time what works well in the classroom. There will likely be classroom audits and recommendations made for ongoing professional development. Gradually the typical instructor will become an educator as they seek out resources to help improve their teaching practices. However, I have worked with many adjunct online instructors who rely on their subject matter expertise alone and do not believe there is a reason to grow as an educator. For anyone who would like to make the transformation and become an engaging and highly effective educator, there are steps that can be taken and practices that can be implemented.Step One: Continue to Develop Your Instructional PracticeWhile any educator can learn through time on the job, it is possible to become intentional about this growth. There are numerous online resources, publications, workshops, webinars, and professional groups that would allow you to learn new methods, strategies, and practices. There are also social media websites such as LinkedIn and Twitter that allow for the exchange of ideas and resources within a global community of educators.You can also utilize self-reflection as a means of gauging your effectiveness. I have found that the best time to review my instructional practice occurs immediately after a class concludes. That is a time when I can assess the strategies I have used and determine if those methods were effective. Even reviewing end of course student surveys may provide insight into the perspective of my students.Step Two: Continue to Develop Your Academic SkillsI know from my work with online faculty development that this is an area of development that many educators could use. However, it is often viewed as a low priority – until it is noted in classroom audits. If an educator has weak academic writing skills, it will interfere with their ability to provide comprehensive feedback for students. For online instructors, that has an even greater impact when posted messages contain errors with spelling, grammar, and formatting. The development of academic skills can be done through the use of online resources or workshops. Many online schools I have worked for offer faculty workshops and this is a valuable self-development resource.Step Three: Continue to Develop Your Subject Matter ExpertiseEvery educator has subject matter expertise that they can draw upon. However, the challenge is keeping that knowledge current as you continue to teach for several years. The best advice I can offer is to find resources that allow you to read and learn about current thinking, research, and best practices in your chosen field. This is essential to your instructional practice as students can ascertain whether you appear to be current in your knowledge, or outdated and seemingly out of touch. Even the use of required textbooks does not ensure that you are utilizing the most current information as knowledge evolves quickly in many fields.Step Four: Continue to Develop Your Knowledge of Adult LearningThe last step or strategy that I can recommend is to gain knowledge about adult learning theories, principles, and practices. If you are not familiar with the basics there are concepts you can research and include critical thinking, andragogy, self-directed learning, transformational learning, learning styles, motivation, and cognition. My suggestion is to find and read online sources related to higher education and then find a subject that interests you to research further. I have found that the more I read about topics I enjoy, the more I am cultivating my interest in ongoing professional development. What you will likely find is that what you learn will have a positive influence on your work as an educator and will enhance all areas of your instructional practice.Working as an educator, or someone who is highly engaged in the process of helping students learn, starts with a commitment to make this a career rather than a job. I have developed a vision related to how I want to be involved in each class I teach and I recommend the same strategy for you. You may find it useful to develop teaching goals for your career and link your classroom performance to those goals. For example, do you want to complete the required facilitation tasks or would you rather put in the additional time necessary to create nurturing class conditions?After developing a vision and teaching goals, you can create a professional development plan to prompt your learning and growth in all of the areas I have addressed above. While this strategy may require an investment of time, it is helpful to remember that we always make time for whatever we believe is most important. Being an educator is not sustaining a focus on job functions, rather it is cultivating a love of what you do and learning how to excel for the benefit of your students. Becoming an engaging and highly effective educator occurs when you decide that teaching students is only part of the learning process, and you work to transform who you are and how you function, while working and interacting with your students.

Why Businesses Do Not Sell

It would be nice to live in a world where every business-for-sale was sold at top dollar. While there is no such thing as a perfect business free from all defects, there are a number of problems that can hinder a sale that could be remedied, if given enough time. This article lists ten of the reasons which are often cited as contributing factors in an unsuccessful sale or a completed deal for less than potential value.Business intermediaries need to be up-front with their seller clients, educating them on the challenges faced, and the likely impact that one or more of these issues will have on completing a successful transaction.1. UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONSa. Valuation/Listing Price:Arguably, the price a business is listed at is one of the critical elements to a successful sale. An owner’s emotional attachment to their business, coupled with an inexperienced business intermediary’s desire to obtain the listing and please the seller, can be a recipe for disaster. Overpricing a business will deter knowledgeable buyers from establishing communications. Additionally, it will be extremely difficult to defend the valuation when a business has been priced unrealistically. The typical outcome is that the listing will languish in the marketplace and recovery becomes more difficult. Once on the market for months on end at the wrong price, the process in re-pricing and re-listing creates a whole new set of challenges, the least of which is maintaining credibility.b. Unrealistic Terms and/or StructureDeal structure, asset allocation and tax management must be addressed proactively and early in the process. Often the Buyer and Seller place all of the focus on the sale price at the expense of the ‘net after-tax results’ of a business transaction. In most cases, a seller could achieve a deal that provides a greater economic benefit when an experienced Tax Attorney/CPA assists with structuring the transaction. In addition to structure there are a number of other issues that could be problematic, including:

Seller insists on all cash at closing and is inflexible in negotiating other terms.

The buyer’s unwillingness to sign a personal guarantee

The lack of consensus on the Asset Allocation

Seller insisting on only selling stock (typically with a C-Corp)

Inability to negotiate equitable seller financing, an earn-out, or terms for the non-compete

2. PROFESSIONAL ADVISORSFor a successful sale to occur, a business owner must have the right team of advisors in place. An experienced mergers & acquisitions intermediary will play the most critical role – from the business valuation to negotiating the terms, conditions, and price of the sale as well as everything in between (confidential marketing, buyer qualification, etc). Aside from the M&A advisor, a business attorney who specializes in business transactions is critical. Once again, “who specializes in business transactions”. Any professional who has been in the industry for more than a year will be able to point to a transaction that has failed because the lawyer that was chosen did not have the specialized expertise in handling business transactions. Additionally, a competent CPA who is knowledgeable about structuring business transactions will be the third key role. While a business owner’s current legal and tax advisors may have the best of intentions in assisting their client with the business sale, if they are not experienced with mergers and acquisitions it would be highly recommended to evaluate alternatives. In some cases, there is one shot when an offer has been received and it is therefore imperative not to attempt to make a deal that is out of reach and impossible to complete.3. DECREASING REVENUES/PROFITSThe majority of buyers are seeking profitable businesses with year-over-year increasing revenue and profits. When a business has a less stellar track record with varied results or possibly declining revenue and/or profits, complications with the business sale are likely to occur. Not only will decreasing profits and revenue impact the availability of third party funding but it will have a material impact on the business valuation. While buyers traditionally purchase businesses based on anticipated future performance, they will value the business on its historical earnings with the major focus on the prior 12-36 months. For those businesses which have deteriorating financials, the seller should be able to articulate accurate reasons for the decline. Both the lender and the buyer will need to obtain a realistic understanding of the underperformance to assess the impact it is likely to have on future results. In cases where the seller is confident that the decline was an anomaly and is not likely to repeat itself, structuring a component of the purchase price in the form of an earn-out would probably be necessary. In other circumstances, when there are two or more years of declines, the buyer and lender will question “where is the bottom?” and what is the new normal. In this situation, a decrease in valuation will be inevitable. Cash flow is the driver behind business valuations and business acquisitions. The consistency and quality of revenue and income will be one of the key focal points when assessing an acquisition. It all relates to risk. Those businesses with dependable recurring revenue generated from contractual arrangements will generally be in greater demand than businesses who produce income based on a project based model.4. INACCURATE OR INCOMPLETE BOOKSOne of the most critical components to a successful business sale is for the business to maintain accurate, detailed, and clean financial statements that match the filed tax returns. Not only will these financial statements be the basis for the business valuation but they will also be the criteria for whether the business will qualify for bank transaction funding. Too often the business is managed as purely a lifestyle business that is focused only on short term owner compensation, without regard to building long term value. In these cases, the owner has taken very liberal personal expenses that may not be able to be added back when deriving the adjusted earnings. Given the importance these documents represent, a business owner should ensure that the books are professionally managed and up to date. Records that are messy, incomplete, out-of-date or containing too many personal expenses will only give prospective buyers and lenders reasons to question the accuracy of the books. Last but not least, businesses that have a ‘cash component’ will need to report 100% of this income for it to be incorporated in the valuation.5. CUSTOMER CONCENTRATIONBusinesses that have a handful of customers that produce a large percentage of the company’s revenues, will probably have customer concentration issues, especially if one client represents greater than 10% of sales. It is important for a business owner to recognize that a business which lacks a broad and diverse base of customers possesses a higher degree of risk for a buyer as the loss of any one of these large clients could have a material impact on the future earnings. As a result, customer concentration will have an effect on the valuation, deal structure, and salability of the business. Vendor and industry concentration can also pose complications when selling a business. Specialization can be a competitive advantage for a business and assist in winning contracts. However, this same narrow industry focus could be a detriment if it is perceived that the business does possess a broad supply chain and ample options to source products and materials.6. THE OWNER IS THE BUSINESSIt is not uncommon for the owner to play a significant role in the operation and management of the business. This is particularly true with smaller enterprises. Where this situation can present a problem is when the owner is not only the face of the business but also deeply involved with all facets of the company – sales, marketing, operations, management, marketing, and financial. If there are no key employees and there are few written processes and procedures, the business lacks a dependable and repeatable work flow. When it becomes evident that the business cannot operate effectively without the owner’s hands on involvement and personal know-how, it becomes problematic. Of equal concern is the relationship the owner may have with the customers of the business. If the customer does business with the firm largely in part of the relationship with the owner, this situation will create customer retention concerns and possible transition problems when the business is being sold. In summary, buyers want a business that can operate independently from the current business owner.7. THE OWNER(S) IS AGING AND HAS SLOWED-DOWNIt is not uncommon for a business owner to become complacent after running the company for an extended period of time. Becoming tired and lacking the previous ‘fire in the belly’ has a way of spilling over into the business fundamentals. The number of trade shows that the business participates in decreases, the travel and new customer sales calls that routinely took place on a daily basis in the early years, have been paired down. The investment spending on equipment upgrades, vehicle replacement or marketing programs have been cut back. Innovation has come to a grinding halt and the business is on auto pilot. The financials have luckily held steady but for how long? An owner who has become burnt out almost unavoidably transmits their lack of zeal and drive to their staff and clients in a number of subtle ways. The net result is the company’s performance slowly begins to deteriorate. Unfortunately, this situation can become even more pronounced when the owner finally makes the decision to sell the business and mentally checks out at the worst possible time. Transferring ownership can be viewed by some as a highly emotional process, and the decision to sell at the right time is often ignored until the issue is forced upon the owner (failing health, divorce, disability, etc.) and usually at a fraction of the former valuation.8. INDUSTRY IS DIMINISHING OR THREATENED Over the last two centuries there have been a number of industries that have developed and grown significantly. In this same time frame, many new industries have been created while others have become extinct. The future outlook for a given industry will have a direct impact on the valuation and marketability of the business during a sale. Businesses facing obsolescence or mired in a shrinking industry will face an uphill battle when it comes time to transitioning or selling the company. Maintaining a diverse offering of products and services that are relevant to the market, not just today, but also with an eye to the future, will enable a business owner to avoid this situation. Not only will this assist in mitigating the impact from declining sales but also demonstrate to a prospective buyer that the business has a clear path to grow in the future.9. CHOOSING THE WRONG LENDERFrom loan application approval to transaction funding is a process in business transactions that can take six weeks or more, that is with an ‘experienced’ business acquisition financier. Many deals have fallen apart during this time frame because the buyer became aligned with the wrong financial institution. There is nothing worse, for all parties involved, to find out four weeks into the process that either the loan terms previously promised were not correct or worse, that the bank underwriter declined the loan.In the field of business acquisitions, not all banks/lenders are the same. There are conventional loans, SBA backed loans, and there are lenders that provide cash-flow based financing and others that only provide asset based funding. One bank may turn down a borrower for an SBA 7a loan while another institution will readily accept it. Every lender has its own unique and frequently modified lending criteria. Therefore, buyers need to ensure they are working with the right lender from day one, or valuable time is wasted causing the deal to be compromised, or lost to another, better prepared candidate. Buyers should consult with the business intermediary representing the sale to determine which lenders have reviewed and/or pre-approved the transaction for funding. Obviously, buyers who are prequalified from the start and verify that the bank’s lending criteria conforms to the type of businesses they are evaluating, will be the best positioned for a successful acquisition.10. COMMERCIAL PROPERTY ISSUESFor some businesses the saying “location, location, location” cannot be more important to the value of the company. Typically, this will pertain to retail businesses. If the physical location is of major importance, the business buyer will seek assurances that they can either purchase the real estate or be able to sign a long term lease. On the flip side, the business could be located in a part of town that has fallen on hard times or could be located on the owner’s personal property, both situations necessitating that the business be relocated. Also, some businesses are not easily relocatable without affecting the current customer base. All of these circumstances add another layer of complexity to the transaction.Additionally, the type and size of facility can also have a material impact on the sale. If the facility is not large enough to provide the enterprise a sustained growth path, a buyer could become disinterested. Another situation could be the value of the property. If the current owner purchased the land/building a decade or two earlier and the financials or recast do not reflect a current FMV rent/lease payment, valuation problems will occur.Business transactions involving the sale of commercial real estate can be hampered by the Environmental Site Assessments (ESA’s) – Phase 1 and Phase 2. Property that is contaminated can be very costly to clean up and will have an impact on the closing. When this situation arises, it will be important for the buyer and seller to have a clear understanding of the costs to resolve the issue, which party is responsible, and whether a price offset will be warranted.Other complicating factors involving commercial real estate include zoning changes that require a property to be brought up to new codes, and clear definition of who bears responsibility and the cost of this process. Last but not least, the agreement by the landlord with either a lease assignment or offering a new lease at comparable rates.SUMMARYMost small business owners have spent the majority of their life building their business. It is not uncommon for a business seller to become so emotionally attached to the company that they look past some rather glaring problems that a business intermediary, a lender, or prospective buyer will immediately recognize. It is natural for a seller to want to obtain the highest price possible for their business. There is so much bad information on the web related to multiples and business valuations that this should not come as a surprise. M&A Advisors need to be honest and direct in educating a business seller on the challenges faced in a potential sale, the range for a realistic transaction price, as well as creative terms and structuring options that might be utilized. Being a people pleaser and ignoring any potential problems will only provide the seller with unrealistic expectations. In the arena of business negotiations there are few if any “pleasant surprises”. Dealing with issues up front rather than late in the sales cycle process should be the golden rule.

Importance of Branding for E-Commerce Businesses

E-commerce businesses are becoming a reliable way to buy products online. Branding plays a direct role in improving chances of e-commerce business success. An increasing number of global customers are switching to e-commerce sites to purchase everything from groceries to apparel, and electronics to lifestyle products. The e-commerce industry has completely transformed the way in which consumers around the world access products and services. It has suddenly brought a world of options to the fingertips of end users. The future seems bright for the e-commerce industry, with major players branching out into newer product categories frequently (thus setting the standards for smaller brands).

For e-commerce businesses, things are going well enough, but the competition is also fierce. New e-commerce brands are launching every day and persistently trying to get a foothold online. When it comes to branding, e-commerce companies are leaving no stone unturned. In this scenario, it is vital that you build and implement a high quality branding strategy for your e-commerce business.

Branding Strategies For E-Commerce Businesses

By having a result-oriented, effective branding plan for your e-commerce business, you can stand out amongst your competitors. To achieve that, you must determine what makes your e-commerce business a unique player in the industry. Are you offering high quality products at the best available rates? Do you organize regular discounts and offers for your customers? Are you adding new product categories to meet more customer demands? What are the factors that would convince customers to choose your brand against others? E-commerce business owners must strive to highlight the unique selling points of their brand. Only then can an e-commerce brand be boldly promoted to larger audiences.

As an e-commerce brand, you have to be at the forefront when it comes to attracting product vendors as well as consumers to your e-store. Vendors would be interested in using your marketplace, if it has a strong brand that keeps providing value to customers. The number of sellers and customers you bring in to your network depends on the strength of your e-commerce brand, and how well it delivers on its promises. If you are intelligent in your branding, and consistent in your service quality, your e-commerce brand can achieve considerable success.

E-commerce branding, like all branding, is influencing the perception of your brand and its services, in the eyes of the customer. Effective e-commerce branding will make marketing easier, retain more customers, drive up loyalty, and create better potential value for steady, long-term success.

The way you must approach an e-commerce branding strategy is by highlighting some key points. With branding, you must uphold your business’s core mission, the problems you aim to solve for your customers, standards that it adheres to, and proof of the quality of services you provide. What are the factors involved in business branding and their importance?

E-Commerce Branding – Methods and Importance

1. Your Brand Image - A stellar, uniquely identifiable brand image helps customers attach value to your e-commerce brand’s personality. This includes various things such as logos, banners, taglines, marketing captions, social content etc., which should always represent your brand the best. This is quite important if you want to create value for potential customers and convert them into loyal customers. A good brand image goes a long way in retaining customers, by continually generating interest for your e-commerce brand’s offerings.

2. Customer Satisfaction - Customers are everything, when it comes to e-commerce or any other type of business. You can actually enhance customer experiences and drive up satisfaction (and loyalties). This is a big part of establishing your e-commerce brand. Put your best foot forward while marketing, deliver on your promises you make, and provide unmatched service and support to enhance your brand’s potential value. Remember that satisfied existing customers can and will bring in newer customers to your e-commerce business. Maintain your integrity and keep reinventing to bolster your brand’s chances of business success.

3. Find Your Unique Selling Proposition - As an e-commerce business owner you must determine the USP of your brand. This will help you brand and promote it better to larger groups of potential customers. Think about what sets you apart from dozens of competitors vying for true e-commerce glory. Is it your service quality or support? Is it the trust of your customers and your track record? Do you provide innovative offers, discounts and promotions on special occasions? Do you house the widest variety of rare products? You must determine why customers would choose your e-commerce site. What extra value can you offer to your potential customers that convince them to use your platform again and again? Find your USP and use it to strengthen your brand.

4. Utilize All Channels - Technological advances in the past decade demand that your e-commerce business maximizes its presence on all social, web-based and mobile platforms. More and more potential customers buy and sell through handheld devices, and almost all of them are on social websites. All your competitors are doing it, and so should you. It will help you make your brand easily accessible to larger audiences, which in turn will bring more conversions and significantly better revenues. Social and mobile should be the front and center of your branding strategy.

E-commerce sites can benefit from the above mentioned branding strategies. By using the concepts provide here, you can establish your e-commerce brand and take your business to the next level.