You Are Not Alone!

by Colleen Blevins, RJ Taylor and Ashley Schulte

With you.

That’s how we sign off many of our emails with industry phriends, partners, and teammates these days. It may seem like a small gesture, but it’s something that carries significant meaning for us. It’s why we do the work we do every day. It’s how we acknowledge showing up for one another. It’s a reminder that in celebrating the big wins and in navigating the toughest challenges… you are not alone!

With you. With YOU. WITH you.

Is it the great resignation? Is it the loss of institutional knowledge? Is it the ever-evolving student expectations? Is it the endless search process to onboarding process to… offboarding process? It’s probably a bit of all of that. And, we’re with you—but with a little less focus on the potential macroeconomic causes. We are committed to human-centered, long-term, sustainable solutions with you.

We love celebrating the wins and successes of our peers and watching them go on to achieve professional goals, advance their careers, and forge new paths. Amid the celebrations, we also see many of our colleagues struggling as they lead their offices alone, down one or two humans, or interimly supporting a community with which they need more knowledge and experience.

It’s not new news that we are losing top talent, and the pool to fill the open roles is smaller than it has been in years.

It’s also not new to us that more demand exists for our students than ever. From the pressures they put on themselves to achieve personal, often generational, goals to the societal pressures of social media, internal and external demand on students’ time and attention is at an all-time high.

It’s a hard pill to swallow that turnover is a natural part of our industry. The student leaders are changing; young professionals are graduating and moving on; and even the list of our athletic conference peer campuses is shifting faster than ever.

These major pain points also impact our industry and the professionals like you doing great work. They veer us off track; increase the demands on our time; move our focus away from our long-term goals; and could impact the health, safety, and future of our organizations.

It’s never been more apparent. We need to professionalize our industry from the top down. We must remove the “other duties as assigned” job titles and prioritize our industry’s sustainability. We need to invest in scaleable, repeatable systems.

Sustainability is Found in Systems

Have you ever felt you were chasing similar goals every year but not seeing the progress you had hoped for? Maybe it’s personal goals or maybe professional. You make a New Year’s resolution to make better financial decisions or get healthier; you set a goal to improve student retention or increase program attendance.

We make goals each year because it’s what is expected of us. The problem with achieving these goals is we often do not create a healthy process or system to maintain the habits that lead to these goals. We work hard for momentary progress, yet when we move on to next level goals, the maintenance of milestones already met is often overlooked or forgotten.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, puts it this way, “Goals are for people who care about winning once. Systems are for people who care about winning repeatedly.”

For example, with pre-intake and recruitment, we believe in the power of systems—long-term, holistic growth systems that unite education and technology together. Rather than isolated programs and PowerPoints, we believe in systems that create sustainable, repeatable ways to educate, support, and develop entire communities. Building and utilizing systems will allow us to focus on the long-term sustainability of our industry.

Sustainability and systems allow us to manage our communities with the support, aid, and expertise of others. We cannot do it all, all of the time, and expect systemic progress. Relying on partners and systems that create a firm foundation of support allows us to do more and support more within our communities and organizations.

There is a deep need to address the broader systems, structures, and relationships that will move our communities forward in safer, healthier, and more inclusive ways. We need to dive deep into our current systems and look for ways to improve – we should consider:

  • Do students really need to turn anything in by midnight?
  • Does that program really need an “overhaul”?
  • Is that accountability system (or really a list of fines) moving the needle or creating more paperwork? Are our processes making student leadership harder or more rewarding?
  • Are our current systems built with every chapter and council in mind? Or have they been developed for the majority?
  • Where’s the new council or chapter officer onboarding resource you know can reach for quickly?
  • What’s the annual event you can ensure your students are invited to that will challenge them and connect them with peers in similar leadership roles?
  • What’s the bi-weekly email newsletter you can sign your student leaders up for that you know will provide an expert-level touchpoint and spur their creativity?

Let’s agree to a season of editing. Let’s agree to advocate for systems that give us the power to make a long-term impact, systems that must be built with every council, every chapter, and every member in mind.

Shifting to Sustainable Growth

We’d be remiss if we didn’t share how we’ve felt the need for better systems when it comes to the growth of our industry. Many of our team members have been there, often feeling alone—in our previous roles—while surrounded by colleagues and students with competing priorities. We have felt isolated in trying to achieve some level of growth and follow some sort of strategic plan set years before us without a healthy way to achieve and sustain progress. It wasn’t until we found help, support, and collaboration in stacking hands with industry experts we realized we were not alone. That someone was with us.

Phired Up has made an intentional shift to increase the responsibility we take in serving our partners in hopes that we can model the way to offer healthy systems of support while providing a strong, truly industry-wide foundation for growth education, resources, and technology. The support that used to be only found in isolated one-day training experiences, consulting hours, or annual conference keynotes is now available 24/7, 365 days a year, through continuous, collaborative, value-added relationships.

If you have worked with us in any capacity over the last three years, you have witnessed and felt a shift in our approach to supporting this industry we deeply care for. You have probably had conversations with us where we ask different questions, rooted in a systematic and sustainable approach, that focus on the PHUTURE of our industry married with the challenges of right now. These conversations help us focus on the whole community or organization rather than just one council or a couple of chapters. They allow us to work together towards common, long-term goals grounded by a healthy, repeatable growth system.

As partners, we can challenge each other to think differently, beyond the scope of simple recruitment metrics and council-by-council events. To remind ourselves to look for the similarities rather than the differences. To limit the double, sometimes triple, work in front of us by leaning into holistic systems that provide continuous growth support for the entire community. It is this belief that’s fueling everything we do and everything we create as a team. Collaboration WITH campus and HQ partners guides every product we build and resources we write. We are committed to helping our partners stretch beyond the boundaries of traditional one-and-done programming that initially may have helped our industry survive and into a healthier system we all know can help us thrive.

In an industry that will continue to naturally ebb and flow, we challenge business partners to join us in offering sustainability through the systems and services we offer. 

Investing in Support: For Students AND Professionals

Thomas Haas, former President of Grand Valley State University, once shared with his team, “I will never ask you to do more with less. But I will ask you to always do the very best you can with what you have.”

We agree with this to our core. There are so many in spots without this mentorship/leadership in place, being asked over and over to “do more with less.” We know some professionals are working beyond the scope of their knowledge, experience, and often energy.

We need to not only invest in collaborative programming and systems of support for our students but also for ourselves. We need to professionalize our industry from the top down. We need to help our colleagues understand the nuances beyond their scope of experience and provide educational learning beyond their organizations, councils, and communities. We will not be able to make a sustainable, long-term impact without one another and without healthy systems to lean on one another.

You are not alone in the work you do. You are not alone in the goals you are trying to achieve, and you are most certainly NOT alone in building systems that promote healthy, sustainable community growth.

Ask yourself:

What do you do best that you can do more of instead of stretching thin in other areas?

What can you do, even right now, today, in the next 10 minutes, that can redirect your work and create a system to make it happen?

What do you not need to do? What is outside your scope, and how can you choose the sustainable path over the quick win? Let’s look for help in systems and in people to achieve it. Outsource it or delegate it, and move it forward with someone else leading.

We are with you. So many professionals in this industry are with you. We are all here to do the very best we can with what we have – collectively, together.


About the authors:

Colleen Blevins has spent over 15 years working with and supporting fraternity and sorority communities. She is passionate about enhancing the member experience while also creating healthy and sustainable opportunities for the future. She believes that fraternity and sorority membership is a gift that keeps on giving, and we need to do all that we can now in order to positively impact what we get in return. Colleen serves Phired Up as the Senior Director of Content and Training, where she puts her passion and degrees to good use inspiring and creating a future focused vision for growth. Colleen is a graduate of the University of Kansas, where she joined Alpha Delta Pi sorority and then went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in Higher Education at the University of South Carolina. She is a sports fan, pop culture addict, music lover, and history buff. Having spent most of her life in the Midwest and on the East Coast, she now resides in Phoenix, Arizona, with her husband and two daughters.

RJ Taylor is a professional fraternity evangelist and deeply believes in the power of people together. He serves as CEO of Phired Up & TechniPhi.  Since 2012, RJ has helped start more than 30 fraternity chapters across the country, guided numerous campus communities and inter/national organizations through marketing strategy work, and trained thousands of student leaders in the art and science of Dynamic Recruitment. He has previously worked as the Director of Growth for Alpha Tau Omega National Fraternity (ATO), led growth for a retail start-up company called Wanderlust Outfitters, and helped lead an 11-month 11-country trip around the world with his wife, Kayla. RJ is a proud alumnus of Austin Peay State University (Let’s Go Peay!) and even prouder #girldad to his daughter, Ada, and #heartdad to his adopted son Amos. His family is on a mission to visit every country in the world and has currently visited 49 of 213.

Ashley Schulte attended a Phired Up training on Dynamic Recruitment as an undergraduate Panhellenic Vice President of Recruitment. It was in a small hotel conference room, outside the O’Hare airport, but it was a moment that made a lasting impact on her life. Fast forward a few years, after working as a campus-based professional in student affairs broadly, prevention work intimately, and fraternity & sorority advising most recently, she joined the Phired Up team in Summer 2021. Now, as Phired Up’s Director of Customer Success, she leads our partnership journeys, focusing on the combination of technology + education to create, adopt, and maximize growth systems for and with our partners. Ashley is a member of Delta Zeta, a resident of Grand Rapids, MI, an alumna of Grand Valley State University, and is YTT200 trained. Ashley has a passion for finding the best food/snacks in cities she visits, spending time being a Phun Aunt, practicing yoga, and soaking up summer sunshine (or escaping Michigan winters).

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