When Michael Pickrum tells us about ExecOnline, the company that he joined as CFO back in 2019, he wants us to know that the education technology firm is aligned with his goals both professionally and personally.
When it comes to the professional side of things, Pickrum says, ExecOnline in certain ways is a media company.
“You’re taking some IP and figuring out how to distribute and monetize it,” comments Pickrum, while boiling down the somewhat complex approach that ExecOnline uses to repackage the curricula of top business schools and universities to better serve the specific people development needs of a variety of corporate clients.Read More
Still, Pickrum’s shorthand description is intended not to spotlight the facets of ExecOnline’s business model but instead to draw our attention to its similarities with his past media industry experience—such as his 17 years with BET Networks, where he occupied the CFO office for 9 of them.
As for the personal side of things, Pickrum says that he is a “big believer” when it comes to the transformative power of education.
“I went to public schools growing up—I was very fortunate to go to a great university, and it changed my life,” remarks Pickrum, who adds that ExecOnline packages the academic IP not with aspiring college students in mind but with an eye toward first-time managers as well as more senior business leaders.
According to Pickrum, part of the added value that ExecOnline offers corporate clients derives from providing the IP in a more relevant and efficient way.
“Most of our programs are 1 week, 3 weeks, or 6 weeks,” explains Pickrum, who says that at times the material being covered can be applied to a specific project that the managers are undertaking within their company.
“It’s just a great marriage between the business school’s IP, professors, and resources and our platform and ability to engage people where they are, which is at work.” –Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: Tell us about ExecOnline and what sets it apart from other online learning experiences …
Pickrum: ExecOnline is the leading organization in digitally transforming the leadership development space. We’re broadly an ed tech, but unlike most ed tech, we’re solely focused on B2B on the enterprise. Most ed tech is focused on B2C. We partner with top business schools—universities such as Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, and others—and offer curated applied learning experiences by leveraging the schools’ IP and professors and bringing the material straight to the company. We’re focused on helping first-time managers and advanced leaders to become the best leaders that they can be.Read More
At the end of the day, we all know that any organization’s true asset is its people, and you want these people to be at their best. Ultimately, it is about bringing leadership and driving things forward. On a personal note, I’m all about impact, so this is great. This is what we’re focused on. We’re focused on helping people to have the broadest impact that they can.
I ended up here for two reasons. One, there’s the notion of the power of media that I saw at BET. To me, it seems that here we have a very similar approach to business when it concerns taking IP and monetizing it. Two, though, is that from a personal standpoint, I’m a big, big believer in the transformative impact of education. It changed my life.
I went to public schools and was fortunate enough to go to a great university. ExecOnline allows me to align both professionally and personally, and we’re just doing great work.
Our priorities initially are about how to scale the organization. We just have an amazing opportunity in front of us. More narrowly, this means continuing to build out the finance function. I’m a big believer in the value of the approach, and our approaches have to make this a strategic asset and have it viewed as a strategic capability that can help the rest of the organization to continue to scale.
This abstract has been edited for clarity.
Value Quote: “I view myself as a ‘value CFO’ and not a ‘cost CFO.’ … As a value CFO, you have to understand what generates revenue and bookings. This led us to do some analysis about what turns sales into revenue in order to identify the drivers of the business.” jb
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