Looking back at Sound Discipline’s first year with SVP, somehow the road ahead is what comes into focus. It’s been a year for laying the groundwork — shifting from a startup into an organization ready to serve thousands of more students.
Last spring, their team joined SVP Partners Bill Skilton, Joanna Stewart, and Lead Partner Dave Thompson in building a five-year business plan that goes beyond the organization’s strategic plan and makes room for the larger critical questions on everything from scaling to the scope of services.
“In the end, all the pieces that I’m doing with SVP are things I would have needed to do, but now I have the support to get them done,” says Karen Schrantz, Sound Discipline’s Executive Director.
Sound Discipline is grounded in the understanding that discipline is really about teaching. Their team helps educators connect with youth and address the root causes of challenging behavior through their research-based, experiential and culturally responsive approach. Transforming punishment into opportunity, school staff foster an environment where students can learn from and repair their mistakes, ultimately giving them the tools to help one another, and creating a more fruitful school climate.
Over the course of three years, Sound Discipline’s coaches provide professional development, help schools establish systems for collecting and using discipline data, build a team of faculty and staff that reviews the data regularly, and engage the whole school in additional training. The program is built on long-term transformative results.
But despite the in-depth knowledge sharing and the stages of engagement with faculty, Karen says, over the years Sound Discipline has seen a trend where educators initially perceive the program as a series of one-off training rather than the beginning of a comprehensive, long-term change at their school implemented by a team of competent staff. It’s one of a variety of challenges only a business plan could address.
"Like any other early growth organization, they had a lot going on and were pulled in multiple directions,” says Dave Thompson, Sound Discipline’s lead partner.
“The process of asking questions and fleshing out a structured plan helped their staff and board step back and better see the “big picture,” and to develop clarity with respect to their goals, financials, and key challenges.”
After reviewing all of the organization’s current market research, Dave hit the ground running. He outlined key areas for the plan and conducted interviews with Sound Discipline staff to gain a deeper understanding of their work and growth to date — material that would be crucial to building a team of sharp SVP volunteers. He then brought in Bill Skilton who had the expertise to guide Sound Discipline in thinking through their consulting model, and Joanna Stewart who, partnered with Bill, led the staff in building a pro forma budget.
“In no time, we formed a high functioning team with complementary skills,” Joanna explains. “Karen provided the expertise on Sound Discipline; Bill brought the consulting know-how; I brought model-building skill, and Dave served as our conductor.”
With Bill on board, Karen says, they were able to develop a plan that addresses the common misperception of their work and further defines their program.
“It shifted the program model in the direction of comprehensive and planned services with long-term benefits for customers,” says Karen.
It has also professionalized Sound Discipline in a way that their staff has been craving for some time. With Joanna and Bill’s help, they now have a tangible framework to dig into critical internal discussions about scaling. It provides boundaries and focus so staff can thoughtfully answer questions about resource allocation, risk tolerance and aversion, or mission and scope of services.
With a plan in place, Karen says, “Funders, donors, clients, as well as staff and board, view Sound Discipline more than ever as a viable business worth investing in.”
The impact of building a business plan — as straight forward as it might seem — stretched farther than Sound Discipline, though. For Dave, it’s taken him deeper into the organization’s work, and given him insight for the years ahead as their lead partner.
“Developing the business plan with Karen, their program director Jody, and other SVP volunteers was a great way for me to learn about Sound Discipline,” Dave explains. “To understand their vision and strategy, how the program and organization works and what their biggest challenges are.”
For Bill, the experience fell on both sides of the fence, as a professional and as a student.
“It was valuable to learn about the issues they face in both working with school districts and major donors that have the potential to dramatically affect their business model,” Bill says.
“It was also very rewarding to know that at least some of the skills that I gained in the for-profit sector have some applicability to the non-profit world. Regardless, the depth of expertise of the other [volunteers] was amazing. I personally learned quite a bit from my team members.”
Likewise, volunteering with Sound Discipline went far beyond Joanna’s expectations and offered two-fold value.
“I was not expecting to come away with such a solid understanding of Sound Discipline, not only from a program perspective but also from a business model perspective,” she says. “That came from the level of investment Karen made in this project. I was also pleasantly reminded how engaging it can be to dive into something new and learn new skills.”
The work Dave, Joanna and Bill did to help build Sound Discipline’s plan for the next five years, Karen says, has served as a foundation to SVP’s partnership with the organization. It also serves as a foundation for the succession planning she anticipates over the next year.
“Working with SVP has been one of the best things about my last year,” says Karen. “It’s been a really supportive and open relationship.”