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Meet Dani Babb of The Babb Group

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dani Babb.

Dani, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started my career in technology, building networks and managing IT teams. It was challenging and enjoyable, exciting and constantly changing! I geeked out every day with the latest gadgets (from the 90’s). I found myself spending my free time encouraging others to get into tech… particularly women who are underrepresented in the sciences.

Having worked part of my IT career in education and seeing the value in lifelong learning (it really does change lives!), I began teaching at local college campuses at night. I finished up my masters and doctoral degrees and then started teaching online, too. I coached friends and colleagues on how to do the same – put their passion for education coupled with their professional skills and degrees to good use and teach others to do the same.

In time, I learned how to navigate the online education market and co-authored the first book on teaching online as a career: Make Money Teaching Online (which recently had a second edition printed). An unexpected spot on the Today Show connected me with some great folks who became early clients (and are still with us today!) We began offering $7 per month job leads and expanded into other areas, like curriculum vitae writing and job applications.

12 years later, we are helping more professionals put their expertise to good use in the classroom, baby boomers retire from their day jobs while still earning an income and sharing their life experience, and stay at home parents be home with children while still working and earning a living.

We offer tons of free advice in forums with over 10,000 members to date to help people who cannot afford to hire a company to assist them in their job search.

A couple of years ago, we expanded into the college and university market. We know thousands of great college educators… so why not help them get work with us while delivering incredible curriculum to colleges? We began offering curriculum and instructional design, faculty recruitment, faculty training and student recruitment.

This has been exciting for a lot of reasons… it has given us the opportunity to expand our small business, and it has also meant we are able to put some fantastic folks we have worked with for more than a decade to work on projects with us!

As far as I know, we are the first education services business to have both sides of the equation covered… we know professors and that market, and we know what students complain about… so we develop curriculum in ways that keep students interested and engaged in their coursework.

I don’t know any other business that knows as many professors who will deliver top quality work without having to recruit for the jobs. It’s a win-win-win, for students, colleges and educators.

We are now a Certified Woman Owned Small Business and Woman Business Enterprise helping professors get jobs and colleges create the best possible curriculum for their learners, while attracting new students and optimizing their websites for organic search.

It’s the perfect marriage of my love of tech, gadgets and new technology with education!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been a smooth road! Educators are underpaid … they are underpaid for their time, expertise and hard work. As a result, they don’t want to spend money on services… even though it will likely help them get more work. So, we created free support groups for those who want the advice without spending money.

The online education industry has changed drastically in the last 13 years! In the beginning, it was very easy to get work. I could send a boss a CV for a new professor and have a response back right away. Now, there can be thousands of professors competing for the same position.

The jobs are still out there, but they are in different places and they can be hard to find. Candidates need to compete in ways beyond just submitting applications on the big job boards, which is where we can help them learn to differentiate themselves. We have to constantly stay in tune with what’s happening in the market. Competency based education and Open Education Resources are huge now. Professors have to know how to market themselves, which doesn’t always come easy for introverted geeks like myself!

With our newer college and university partnerships, it hasn’t been smooth sailing either. Colleges are competing for a limited pool of students and many resorted to using Outsourced Program Management, or OPMs, who promised to bring in loads of students for a percentage of revenue. Many of these companies underperformed but sent hefty bills to schools, leaving universities and colleges struggling even more with less money to spend. We have to cut through the “OPM stigma” and explain how we are different, so we developed the “Not Your Grandma’s Academic Service Provider” slogan! It’s weird to think that an industry just 15 years old would have a “grandma model”, but it does… and we have to explain on a limited budget how we are unique and different. It’s a challenge, but we love it.

One of our clients recently said after a presentation, “if you were an IT company in the 1990s, you’d be Dell while IBM was still selling mainframes.” I loved that analogy (not just for the IT reference), but because it’s true (and was a wonderful compliment!) We have a solution to problems colleges face, but we are a small business struggling to get word out about what we do and how it’s different.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with The Babb Group – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We help educators find and keep jobs in higher education. We develop and design curriculum for colleges and universities. We help college programs find students who want to be in school and are more likely to stick with their degree!

We are known for helping new and experienced professors get into the field of online education and navigating the constantly changing waters. We are known for delivering exceptional courses to our colleges partners, expertly designed with professional instructional designers and guided by experienced and degreed subject matter experts. We create interesting, engaging learning opportunities while ensuring students master learning objectives, without taking revenue percentages. We help colleges find faculty, and we help them train and retain their professors. We are known for giving candid advice, even if it is not what the client/potential partner/professor/dean/administrator wants to hear. We are known for having fun! We are the crew at conferences dressed in masks if the shindig is in New Orleans, finding Disney shirts if it’s in Orlando and just cutting it up with clients, colleagues and prospects. We aren’t sitting behind the dreary white desk with the dreary white chair handing out brochures to bored looking college administrators. Our team is out there plugging in our USB lights to outlets to light up a room, we are laughing, we are talking best practices.

We are not a traditional (commonly referred to as boring) group of academics sitting in our white ivory towers, we are in the trenches with students as educators, and with our clients as real partners. We share the good times and the bad times with them.

What sets us apart is understanding both sides of the business. Because we have helped professors get jobs for so many years and we have all worked with students ourselves, we know how to help colleges create engaging curriculum and to cut through the smokescreens and useless metrics to get to what really matters to learners.

But we also know what colleges need and want, so we are able to deliver exceptional quality to our college partners without having to hunt for the right experts. Chances are we already know a great person for the job. The insight we get from college partners helps our professors; the insight we get from professors allows us to make candid, no-nonsense recommendations to college partners.

We get right to practical solutions that just work and we are known for that. And, we are not boring. 🙂

I am proud of so much… our flexibility! Our team’s work ethic… it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. We (enthusiastically, really!) work nights and weekends and go above and beyond what is expected by clients. It’s not unusual for our teams to be up late chatting about projects at 3, 4 in the morning.

We have never missed a college partner deadline; that’s huge to me. Our project manager is the best there is. We have a lot of moving pieces when delivering curriculum, and she makes it all come together. It’s like watching a magic show with a ton of hard work and dedication. I think she insulates me from some of it so I don’t have a coronary at 2am.

I love the impact we have on professors and I am very proud of that. Not a week goes by without many stories sent to us about someone’s life we changed for the better… someone who was able to stay home with an elderly parent and care for them while still paying the mortgage, a former student who is now a dean at a college, someone who was able to leave their miserable cubicle job for a life that allows them to travel while working, someone who was able to pay off their debt with their side work or even work through cancer treatment at a hospital… it’s the best feeling in the world to know you had a real impact on someone, and that they know you didn’t give up on them even when they may have given up on themselves.

The work we do with colleges has a direct impact on students, and that is a terrific feeling too. When we deliver curriculum that makes a student want to attend class and better their life, that is a win to me.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We want to hone in on what we’re good at.

Sometimes when you’re entering a new niche for your business, you throw a lot of things at the wall that you know you can deliver and see what sticks – what the market wants.

We have figured out what we are really, really good at.

We rock at bringing in students. We rock at finding faculty. We rock at training those faculty. And we are exceptional at curriculum and instructional design. So we are going to focus on those core elements in our academic services business. We are going to change up our conference strategy a bit this year, and focus on getting the word out about how we can help resolve issues colleges are facing without recurring revenue hits to the college or university. We are working on finding creative ways to get that word out!

We will create new forums for professors to create even tighter networks that let people make solid connections. We are developing new faculty training to help educators improve skills that will make them more marketable.

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