By Dr. Scott Taylor, Small Business Management Scott_Taylor

For the first 20 years of my career, I was involved in the retail world. In the space of two years, during the recession of 1990-92, the industry faced a sea change. New technologies, financial pressures (interest rates at 21 percent and banks unwilling to lend) and new competition from regional malls, big boxes and fledgling Internet stores put extreme pressure on stores to change or die. Most died. Ninety-five percent of all family-owned department stores closed during those two fateful years. Why? The business model that governed the previous 125 years just didn’t work anymore.

Today’s higher ed environment is not yesterday’s retail environment. Yet, it shares eerily similar qualities. We are bombarded by new technologies and methodologies. Financial pressures are severe. (The new reality is that the old funding model is a distant, misty memory and not likely to come back.) New, stronger competition from private colleges, Internet universities and free online learning centers is impacting our ability to enroll students. Pressure from our community to anticipate their needs, move at the speed of change, certify competency, and fill the skill gaps of incoming students requires us to transform the way we approach education. Our choice is to adapt or become irrelevant.

Granted, two-year colleges like SCC have some advantages. We are a reasonably priced alternative to four-year institutions facing many of the same pressures. That’s cold comfort given the other challenges facing us.

This new reality has prompted the Presidential Search Committee to rethink the characteristics desired in our next president (listed on our website under “Presidential Profile”). Here are the first five:

  • Demonstrated capacity to provide visionary leadership that inspires students, faculty and staff around a clear sense of purpose.
  • Open, accessible, respected and respectful. Integrity, honesty, humility, boldness, and candor.
  • Proficiency in written and oral communications, including public speaking.
  • Ability to effectively lead the college through change.
  • Ability to successfully cope with fiscal limitations in a time of enrollment growth.

I believe that the Committee is “spot on.” With the help of a skilled recruiting firm, our job is to find this extraordinary individual. The new president’s job is to lead us through the next decade of profound and accelerating change. The faculty and staff’s job is to partner with him or her to get ahead of the curve.

Our journey likely will be exhilarating, frustrating, seminal, painful, entrepreneurial, and more than a little uncomfortable for most of us. That’s OK. SCC has everything we need to ride the wave of change if we can find, embrace and support our new leader.

It promises to be quite the ride.