Client Spotlight: Edlinguist Solutions
LaNysha Adams is the founder and CEO of Edlinguist Solutions, a coaching and consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. In summer 2019, LaNysha partnered with The Beacon Fellowship and hosted a cohort of Fellows who worked with her to find solutions to a number of challenges facing her firm. Here, she reflects on the experience.
LaNysha, tell me about yourself and your company.
I have a background in education. For about 8 years, I was a teacher for speakers of languages other than English, and I worked in several countries throughout the world. After earning my PhD, I worked in education policy at the legislative and executive level in a few different states. One of the things that I noticed was the huge opening for charter schools and the possibilities for innovation and change that were coming along with that. I realized that the people who are running those schools and companies who are behind those movements don't have a lot of education experience.
So in 2016, I founded Edlinguist. We are a coaching and consulting firm that focuses on changing and enhancing learning in environments, whether they're organizations or K-12 schools or higher education or companies.
For me, initial success would be having five employees who would free me up to build the life that I want. I’m a new mom, and I don’t want to just put my son in daycare and have crazy hours. Ideally, I’d work three days a week, 42 weeks out of the year and still be profitable and make the kind of change I want to see in the world.
What would you say are the biggest challenges that Edlinguist is facing right now?
Well, my Beacon Fellows honed in on marketing as the biggest challenge. Closely related is the need to clarify the services I provide. I also need to use more plain language to explain what it is that I do and what we provide and how we help create outcomes for people and organizations. Currently, people know about us through word of mouth or referrals which works really well for small scale efforts. In order to achieve larger scalability, I need to move to reaching a broader audience. Figuring out how to do that in a multifaceted way has been a really big challenge.
What were your initial impressions when you heard about The Beacon Fellowship?
I was excited to work with vetted, highly qualified young people who are better than interns because they don't need to be managed in the same kind of way. And if they do, The Beacon Fellowship as an entity has created the role of the Project Lead, the Harvard MBA candidate who guides the students and oversees what they produce. It's great to have all of these minds working, but it's even better that the process is organized and structured.
Describe your day-to-day interactions with the Fellows.
It was so interesting and the time just flew by. I'd go for three or four hours and visit with each team and answer their questions. I actually didn't really help with the day to day parts of their work; my involvement was relatively high-level. When I met with them in person, it was mainly to clarify things we couldn't do online. We used Slack as our primary mode of communication; each team sent resources through their own Slack channel. There was also a Google drive. The process was pretty seamless.
Toward the middle of the program, I realized that it'd be better if I met with each person one on one, for half an hour. That's where things really came to life with the Fellows because I got to know who they are, where they are from, and what they care about. Meeting with them individually helped me understand why they were on specific teams and what their value-add was.
Talk about the final presentations.
When they presented, everything came to life. I felt really blown away and eager to take what the Fellows' outlined and use it right away. In fact, I had the opportunity to use their work literally the day after the final presentations! When I was presenting to a nonprofit I'm working with, I used some of the Fellows' slides because they really explained things clearly. That was really exciting - I realized I would be able to immediately leverage all of the value they had created; the Fellows' work wasn't just a theoretical project that might help. So when I was watching the presentations, I thought: "This is gold."
What are the potential impacts of some of the Fellows’ recommendations?
For one of the nonprofits I’m working with, we have 22,000 people who are interested in a loyalty program. If 10% of those people signed up to pay $100 a year, that would enable the nonprofit to not only hire someone, but sustain this type of work outside of foundation grants. So the students really helped by outlining a plan for operationalizing that project. Another impact they had was in helping me clean up the language on my website. I knew that needed to happen, but I hadn't prioritized it. They even created a workflow for the experience of a new visitor to the website. I can implement that immediately. I could even hand it over to someone else to do because it is that clear.
What was it like working with the Project Lead, Yusuf?
Yusuf was really the linchpin of the program. His industry expertise as well as theoretical and applied knowledge from business school were integral to the success of this process. I was able to learn a lot from Yusuf too. Through his management of the Fellows, he was very careful to ensure that I wasn’t burdened by a ton of emails. We brainstormed communication structures that would ensure I was looped in only for things that were really unclear. He did a lot of work to make sure it was easy for me to interact with the students, and I never felt overwhelmed, even though there were a lot of Fellows. That, of course, was a really amazing problem to have - a lot of brains to help solve problems for me. I just felt so privileged!
What would you tell a business owner or CEO who is considering whether or not to host Beacon Fellows?
The Beacon Fellows really help streamline everything; the key part is to have clear communication. If there is a feeling of overwhelm in one area, communicate that to the Project Lead and he or she will provide a solution for it. That happened in the project, by the way. We had three projects at the beginning but we ended up creating a fourth team when the client that I'm working with said that they wanted something at the last minute. Yusuf could see that I was overwhelmed. At that point, he said, let's pull together some students to work on this project. So, he identified the students who would be able to adapt most quickly to a whole new project with limited information. They had to spend a lot of time scouring the internet and they put together a model and did lots of research in a few days.
Would you work with The Beacon Fellowship again?
Oh, definitely. I hope that The Beacon Fellowship would want to work with me again, maybe even for the next two or three years. It would be a really good metric of growth for me to have a whole year to implement what the students advised and then have the opportunity to revisit some of these topics, see what worked and didn't, and then set new goals.
Read about Beacon Fellow Rachel Merrill’s experience working with Edlinguist here.