NEO has nothing to do with the guy in the Matrix, for a start. We do like his style in the movie, but not enough to name ourselves after him. If you google the word, you'll find that NEO is an oft-used prefix from the Greek "neos" meaning "new" or "recent", but that's not really the whole story either.
You might notice we didn't start by asking what is NEO. That just felt wrong. Perhaps the reason that felt wrong is a good place to start figuring out how to explain just who NEO is.
NEO started out, as many organisations did, by aiming to do something differently, and meet a need that was not being met. This actually had very little to do with marketing and recruitment, and more to do with a passion for transformative change in education.
At the start, the original idea was to offer education content in "nano" form. Bite-sized and digestible clusters of knowledge and inspiration, that people could use to build their own pathways through various areas of interest.
This was envisaged as the "Netflix of education". A democratic, accessible, affordable complement to traditional education, that people could engage with on their own terms.
That didn't happen. The development of such a platform was just not within easy reach of a startup. But the passion to be part of change and innovation in education remained strong, and has been the driving force of NEO through everything since. We knew that had to form the core of whatever came next.
When you focus all of your energies on education marketing and recruitment, it could be tempting to chase as many clients as possible, build the books, and focus on growth above all else. NEO was a bit different.
When you really genuinely believe in what you do, and that sense of purpose anchors you through all of the decisions you have to make, things tend to go their own path. As a marketing and recruitment consultancy, NEO Academy could, technically, help any education institution to be successful. That, however, is a responsibility. If our purpose is to be part of a positive transformation in education, then we have to make sure that the institutions we support are aligned with that purpose. When you amplify a voice, you should really agree with what that voice is saying.
Saying no. That is the hardest thing to do when you are growing, but sometimes, it has to be done. Working with clients or projects that don't align with your purpose, or core values of trust, integrity, creativity and passion; there has to be a line.
That is not an easy road, but we have always felt it is the right one. When clients and partners tell us that they love working with NEO because "it feels different", this is a compliment we are so happy to hear.
In the world of education marketing and recruitment, we know that certain practices are commonplace. Holding on to your "know how" because other companies will duplicate what you do. Keeping clients dependent on your services by controlling all of the key aspects. There is another way. It seems counter intuitive from a purely business standpoint, to empower your clients to be able to do things themselves, but that is the way we work. When a client tells us they are ready to take over the operations we have helped to set up, we are happy. We have not lost a client, we have succeeded, together.
When we are asked to perform an audit on the existing approaches of a potential client, we do not guard the findings in fear of our work being copied or taken without payment. This is simply the job, and to do something well, you have to let go.
We are not saying this is always the easy way, but the world of education marketing and recruitment should not always create such a culture of mistrust and overly competitive behavior.
Values, integrity, empowerment and relationships- these things matter much more. You may not rocket to stratospheric growth in the first year of operation, but your growth will be sustainable. Partners come to know they can trust you, because there is something at your core, and because you are genuinely invested in their success. This way works for all of us.
NEO Academy without the team is just a name. We work hard, but there is always time to listen to and support others. We fight hard to succeed in our goals, but if something is not right for the team, then it will be dropped without hesitation. The team is everything.
What would be the use of empowering clients if we failed to do the same for our team? Why would we ask for a partners trust if we could not trust each other internally? The thing about purpose, values and passion is- it burns from the inside. These things must go right to the core.
At NEO Academy we want to make sure our team feel aligned with our mission, but that they have space to develop their own motivations too. When an opportunity is presented to learn and develop, even if it is uncomfortable, we try to support each other to go for it.
As a liquid team working online, we make sure that much of our work is horizontal. We know what is happening in each other's projects, so that we can share, support and encourage. For as long as our team members wish to walk alongside us, we want them to feel that they belong.
NEO Academy is an education marketing and recruitment consultancy. That's the strapline, but there is a lot more underneath.
We want to walk a different path. We want to support institutions that we really believe in. We want others to succeed, and we want to grow with them, not to drip feed services that never end. We want to really connect with others who feel that same passion, who live and work by their values and are guided by their purpose. If that is you, then please do reach out. To share something with us on our weekly NEOchats, to talk more about how we might work together or just to share reflections on what it means to walk your own path in an industry like ours. Whatever the reason to reach out, the invitation is open. Finding your tribe is one of the most important things you can do, and we look forward to connecting with more of you in the months and years to come.