Russ: Hi, I’m Russ Capper and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Checking in today from Indianapolis, Indiana, and I’m very pleased to have as my guest, Kendra and Jason Beutler, Co-founders and owners of EduSource. Kendra, Jason, welcome to the show.
Jason: Thank you.
Russ: You bet. Tell us about EduSource.
Jason: Well, let’s see, I like to help companies on the technology front. There are really kind of two issues that we really focus in on. One is if a company is, you know, their business is just too unique for off the shelf products. The software just doesn’t quite—off the shelf software just doesn’t quite hit what they’re doing. Business is becoming so personal and so unique these days that customizing that and streamlining the processes for what they do is so important, so that’s one area that we help. Another area though, sometimes businesses already have bought multiple off the shelf products, or software as a service types of tools, but at the end of the day, how do you get them to talk to one another? How do you make an informed decision? How do you bring them into a central reporting type of environment; dashboards, analytics, machine learning, all of the fine geek words that are out there today; we help companies implement those.
Russ: Ok, and golly, software, I mean when people talk about the digital revolution now, they’re really talking about software at the end of the day, I mean, that’s the whole picture. I like the way you said it, when you first started talking about it I was going, wow, but can’t custom software be quite a bit more expensive than off the shelf stuff?
Jason: It can be. We have some strategies, and actually, our name has come about from that standpoint. Outsourcing software has been a trend for decades now, and that’s effective. We’re really passionate around youth, and we’re really passionate around the US, and we’re really passionate around the people in our community. One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve reached out to local universities, and we bring in juniors and seniors for a two year long apprenticeship program. So, instead of outsourcing our software overseas we’re giving an opportunity to EduSource your software to local university students. I know most people’s first thought is, I know what I was like in college, I don’t want them writing my software. And I understand that, but it’s not just that we bring them in and hand them the software. There’s a very sophisticated system. We actually believe more in mentorship. They do a two year long apprenticeship program where they are actually partnered up with our senior engineers. So, they’re on a team, they’re not off on their own, and that’s how we make sure that the quality is up to snuff and appropriate.
Russ: Are they already coders when you get them?
Kendra: They are. So, we only accept the students that are computer science majors at four-year universities. So, they have to already be in the major. There actually are certain classes that we kind of look for as benchmarks that they need to have already taken.
Russ: Do they have to show up and try out first?
Kendra: We have a really elaborate application process because we look for certain things. We want to find really good coders, but we also want to find really good culture fits. Culture is a big deal to us. They go through several steps and then it all culminates with a big group interview where they come in and they sign up in groups of four students, I think. They come and they do some group storyboarding, problem solving, and then they go through a lot of little speed interviews, we call them. When they get through all that we pick the best of the best.
Jason: We had eighty applicants for seven positions last year.
Kendra: We did.
Russ: So, do any of them stay after the two years? Or do you maybe not allow them to? Or do you want them to?
Kendra: No, absolutely. We want them to. We kind of figure it’s kind of a win-win-win, right? It’s a win for the students, they get incredibly experience and are able to come out of school with two years of experience; it’s a win for our clients because they do get more affordable software; and then it’s especially a win for us because we have a two-year interview period. So, at the end of two years we know which are the absolute best fits for our company. So, we’ve hired several of them.
Russ: Go back to the beginning of the company. What triggered the idea to start EduSource?
Jason: I had been Vice President of IT for a company in Indianapolis and the entrepreneurial bug is just in me. I needed to step out on my own, the corporate environment wasn’t for me. So, I stepped out on my own and basically just did independent consulting for a while. I contracted myself out as a project lead for a company here in town, and at the time they were outsourcing half of their development overseas and then I was leading up the team here locally. At the same time, I had been asked to teach at a local university as an adjunct professor for their software engineering class. So, I had sophomores that were in a computer science program, I was teaching them and then working with these overseas teams. At the end of the day the code that I was receiving from overseas I was comparing with this code I was receiving from my sophomores, and I thought, the sophomore code is actually significantly better. I said, man, I wish I could just have them write my software for what we were doing, and then one idea just sort of snowballed and just kept kind of going. I thought, well let’s give this a try and let’s see if we can make this happen.
Kendra: And it was a disaster right at first.
Jason: It was a disaster right at first.
Kendra: It’s not easy working with college students. They’re definitely smart enough, there’s no problem with that, but trying to figure out—getting them to understand business deadlines, and discipline, and accountability, all those kinds of things, it’s been a long process to get them there.
Russ: Let me make sure I got this right. So, from the very beginning you were outsourcing to students? I mean, that was a key part of the idea from the beginning.
Jason: It was.
Russ: And so, have you been working there full-time since the beginning?
Kendra: I have. Not since the beginning. I was in education, that’s my background, so for the last—I spent about ten years teaching at a couple of local universities, and I’ve been with the company full-time for, I think, two and a half years now.
Russ: We’ve interviewed several married couples before. I had my wife with me, briefly, in a company. Sometimes it can be challenging. How is it working for the two of you guys?
Kendra: I find it works really well as long as we stay out of each other’s way. When our paths cross too much, and our responsibilities cross too much, then we have a little tension there.
Jason: I think one of the wonderful things—she’s my best friend, so it’s very similar to starting a business with your best friend. You’re going to have conflict, and that’s normal, but at the end of the day our strengths complement one another. I’m the hairbrained idea person, she’s the practical, figure out how to make it happen.
Russ: It sounds like a perfect match.
Jason: It is.
Russ: But I can’t let you go without asking this. So, this cool idea about outsourcing to students, certainly somebody is copying you by now? Or have they?
Jason: You know, I haven’t really run across anybody. There is one university that’s trying to do something similar, but I’ve not run across a business that is doing it in the way that we are.
Kendra: There are some bigger businesses that even have maybe some presence on university campuses and they maybe kind of hire students in and out, but really the difference, I think, with us is that these students become, because it’s a small company, they become part of our community over two years. In the summer, every week, a full-time employee invites all the students over for a game night to their house, and they cook them dinner, so they really get to just have that family feel. At the end of two years, most of them want to come work for us. We aren’t able to hire all of them, but most of them would prefer it because these are their friends and mentors in the community.
Russ: Really neat.
Jason: I also want to highlight this is different than an internship. This is two years long. So, when you’re in school and you’re writing software, you basically have to support it for, what, three months before the class is over and it’s like, ok, it’s done, and I don’t have to think about it again. This is the first time in their careers where they write something their sophomore year or their junior year and then a year and a half later that code comes back and they have to support it. The growth that comes from that process is so much deeper than what you get out of some of the university—just some extra classes.
Jason: That’s a big difference, because what we’ll do is, they’re with us for 40 hours a week during the summer. When they go back to school we keep them on staff for 15-20 hours a week, kind of like if they were doing an athletic scholarship, like if they were playing tennis or something, they would be doing 20 hours a week according to the NCAA rules, and practice. We do a similar thing. We expect 15-20 hours a week of actual work while they at school. They’re still on the team, they’re still a part of it, so it’s much more immersive than just a normal summer internship.
Russ: But is it so real world that you might have to terminate one every once in a while?
Jason: I have had to do that before.
Russ: Then it’s like a real business.
Jason: It’s real business.
Kendra: We kind of consider it a failure on our part. Frankly, we’re learning different universities, they teach different things, and so some of them the students are prepared and they’re ready, and sometimes they’re not, and they just can’t do the work. They might be a really hard worker, but at the end of summer we had one that just couldn’t, he just still couldn’t do it, and so that was unfortunate. We kind of felt like our interview process maybe needed to step up after that.
Russ: Well, I have to hand it to you, it’s unique. I would encourage you to keep pushing it as far as you can.
Russ: Kendra, thank you so much.
Jason: It’s a pleasure.
Russ: You bet. And that wraps up my discussion with Kendra and Jason Beutler, Co-founders and owners of EduSource. And this is BusinessMakers USA.
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