Tri County Tech: Education Done Differently

There is nothing quite like the energy that fills the hallways on the first day of school. Students and educators have a bit of anxiety and excitement for what the new school year can bring. After a few days, everyone begins to settle into a routine, and that excitement levels off unless you’re at Tri County Tech. Sure things settle a bit, but our customer focus ensures the excitement and energy prevails throughout the entire year. This way of doing business is a result of a mantra we adopted many years ago.

Early in our “performance excellence” journey, our leadership team visited the QuikTrip headquarters. We were on a benchmarking trip as part of our quest to become a “Best Place” to work in Oklahoma. During our visit, we learned that one of QuikTrip’s core values was: “If you’re not taking care of the customer, take care of someone who is.” Our host explained that some employees had face-to-face interactions with customers, but many more were working behind the scenes and struggled to understand how they fit into the organization. The value also ensured that they kept their customers at the center of everything they do.

If you think about a business, this makes sense. If a company doesn’t take care of its customers, they won’t be in business long.

The visit provided a moment of clarity for us. We adopted the mantra, and it worked. Overnight, everyone in the organization knew precisely how they contributed to the vision of our organization. Today, we hold sacred that students are “customers,” and that if you don’t work directly with the student, then you take care of someone who does. Simple and non-negotiable.

“If you’re not taking care of the students, take care of someone who is,” is a powerful statement. This mantra ensures that students and their experience with us are at the center of every decision we make. For example, a few years ago, we revamped many of our traditional programs to meet the needs of working adults. We created Flex programs, which converted five-day-a-week programs to two nights per week and one Saturday per month. As a result, 170 students have graduated from our Flex programs. Completing a Flex program means a student sees an increase in earning potential, confidence, and a chance at a better life. It is also important to note that these graduates leave with an average debt of only $205 and can work full-time jobs if needed.

It was not easy to change something that had been in place for 50 years, but it was in the best interest of our students. Therefore, the change was in the best interest of our business. Change may be hard, but not as hard as becoming irrelevant.

Four other mantras have followed since the inception of “take care of a student or someone who does.” These simple mantras are woven into every aspect of Tri County Tech. They provide clarity of expectations for educators who can quote them all. This clarity led us to earn the designation of Great Place to Work® in the U.S. and being named a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recipient, in the same year. Tri County Tech is education done differently.

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