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Duval County Public Schools: It’s wise to seek outside advice

In 2003, shortly after a private equity firm invested in our company, Acosta, Inc., our new partners came to me and recommended that we engage with Bain Consulting to take a deep look at how we did business.
I thought we knew all there was to know about running our business. After all, we had been doing it for almost 80 years.

What could they possible tell us we didn’t already know? But my new partners suggested strongly that we engage them. We proceeded with reluctance but with an open mind that there could be a better way to go about business.
Bain brought in a team of highly qualified and deeply experienced individuals, and dug through a mountain of records on our business practices. Their goal was to find a better, faster and more efficient way of operating our sales and marketing business.

After a year, the Bain team had helped our executive team identify needed changes and put in place new technologies and practices that would increase our bottom line.
Within three years, our sales and profits skyrocketed. While it was initially hard for those of us at the top of Acosta to admit, getting an outside perspective on ways we could improve proved unquestioningly valuable, both for our organization and for our shareholders.

I commend the six Duval County School Board members who made a courageous decision this week to engage with Education Resource Strategies, a nonprofit version of Bain that specializes in helping urban districts more effectively allocate their time, people and fiscal resources.

The district’s work with ERS will last more than a year, and will shine a light on whether the district is using its limited resources in the most efficient way possible.
Inevitably, there will be areas in which the School Board is succeeding and areas for improvement and ERS’s insights will help Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals and the School Board continue to improve district policies and procedures that ultimately will help all our students get a better education.

It’s not easy to put yourself and your organization under the microscope for this type of analysis.

The superintendent and those School Board members who supported the measure should be lauded for taking a vital first step.

I have little doubt that this short-term investment will yield significant, long-term, positive change for our district and the kids of Duval County, just as it did for our business seven years ago.

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