In 1982 I was a student at Columbia University.
As with most students, I needed some extra money. Fortunately, I saw a sign that said Teachers Wanted, $10 An Hour.
So I signed up.
It was to teach an SAT review course. Some guy, my age, was running an SAT review course out of his walk up apartment on West 81st Street. Well, why not? Ten dollars is ten dollars.
So I started teaching SAT review courses on the weekends.
I was pretty good at it.
I was so good, that after a few month, the guy who ran it offered me the “northeast franchise for his ‘company’”.
“John,” I said, “you’re a nice guy, but let’s be honest. You have like 30 students and four teachers and I have just been offered a job as a Production Assistant at Channel 13 for $320 a week. So thanks but no thanks.”
John turned out to be John Katzman and the little SAT review company he was starting turned out to be Princeton Review.
Well, I have made dumber moves in my life. But not many.
Anyway, fast forward some thirty odd years and I was running a fairly successful international media consulting company, designing and building TV stations around the world. The foundation of the business was training the MMJs or VJs to shoot, edit and produce their own work. Very cost effective.
The consulting business had a nice spin off on the training side, and we had built a website, TheVJ.com, as an online film and video school. But it was a bit languid.
One afternoon, about a year ago, I went to see John Katzman. If anyone knew the online education business, it was him. I asked him to take a look at TheVJ.com and tell me what he thought.
“Zoom,” he said.
I had never heard of Zoom. No one had. Not then.
“Take your school and marry it to Zoom. Make it interactive,” he said.
(Once a genius, always a genius).
I wrote down ZOOM but did not to much it.
Then, the pandemic hit.
My whole business had always been based on getting on a plane and embedding ourselves (my wife Lisa is also my business partner in this) into the station or network, whether it was in India or Indian, and running intense in person bootcamps for weeks on end.
Now, all that was over.
The business model was dead, another victim of Corona.
I was in the middle of a contract with one of the largest cable companies in the US. We were suppose to spend a month in Texas in March. That was dead too.
Then, I remembered Katzman.
Let’s try Zoom.
So we did.
And you know what? It worked better than the in person bootcamps we had honed and done for more than 30 years.
It was more intimate, it was more immediate, and as Lisa says, everyone is in the front row all the time. We were also able to aggregate people from all over the world in one place —
That one place was the apartment next door. We bought it and turned into a 24- hour Zoom studio.
The clients seemed to like it better. And so did the participants.
And the results, (we have been Zooming now for four months) are MUCH better.
So much better that we are never going back to in-person again.
Now we are pretty much booked 8 am to 8 pm every day.
Sometimes it takes a pandemic to change your business.
For the better
So much better