IAM663- Founder Makes College More Accessible and Affordable

Podcast Interview with Grant Aldrich

Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college more accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their college education. Grant has spent his entire career working in startups with nearly 15 years of experience and 2 prior exits to a publicly traded company. He has been a board member and donor to a number of non-profits, an advisor to many publicly traded companies and a guest speaker at seminars and graduate school courses. He graduated with honours from the University of California Irvine in Economics.

  • CEO Hack: Not having a virtual assistant, utilizing automation instead
  • CEO Nugget: Stay focused on the business model, nothing is easy
  • CEO Defined: Utmost responsibility and utmost freedom

Website: https://www.onlinedegree.com/

Free Courses: https://www.onlinedegree.com/free-courses/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onlinedegreecom/
Certifications: https://www.onlinedegree.com/certifications
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/onlinedegree/

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Intro 0:02

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview? If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the I AM CEO Podcast.

Gresham Harkless 0:29

Hello. Hello. Hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast, I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Grant Aldrich of OnlineDegree.com. Grant. It's awesome to have you on the show.

Grant Aldrich 0:38

Hey, thanks for having me.

Gresham Harkless 0:40

Yeah, super excited to have you on. Before we jumped in, I wanted to read a little bit more about Grant so you hear about all the awesome things that he's doing, Grant founded online degree.com With a purpose-driven mission, to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their college education. Grant has spent his entire career working in startups with nearly 15 years of experience and two prior exits to a publicly traded company. He has been on a board member he has been a board member and donor to a number of nonprofits an advisor to many publicly traded companies and a guest speaker at seminars and graduate school courses. He graduated with honours from the University of California, Irvine and an economics grant, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

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Grant Aldrich 1:22


Gresham Harkless 1:23

Awesome, let's do it. So I guess I wanted to rewind the clock and start I guess a little bit more in the beginning and hear how your CEO story as I like to call it got started and what led you to kind of start your business and do all the awesome things you've been able to do?

Grant Aldrich 1:34

Well, this latest business really came out of the finale of my last business. So I've been a serial entrepreneur for 15 years, the minute I got to college, jumped into a startup company. And I've been in that ever since. So through my 20s and 30s, I feel that I made every mistake in the book, did everything wrong, and somehow came out of it, you know, a little beaten up and bruised, but with a good ending of the story. And, you know, after that, I guess you could say that I was crazy enough to hey, I want to do this all over again. So I but this time, it was a little different. Because I had a few. I was lucky, I feel that I had a period of introspection where I could take about, you know, six months off after the last exit and ask myself, you know, what's going to make me happy?

What do I really want to do? And I feel that so many people never get that opportunity and never really ask themselves, hey, who am I? What's gonna make me fulfilled? And what it really came down to was that I wanted to engineer a lifestyle around being with my family. And that was uncompromising. And then to create something I really cared about, like something I love to do every day. And so that's what was the genesis of onlinedegree.com, I really wanted to help people be excited and have a big mission to tackle every single day.

Gresham Harkless 2:58

Yeah, absolutely. And I think when you have a big why, and a big mission is incredible, you know, important, you know when you're running a business, creating a startup and whatever you might do. But I love that you kind of touched on that because I felt the same way. Like I think when I was graduating from college, I always wondered, at what point in your life do you have those introspective periods? And to understand that you have to do it on a regular basis, because as you know, we evolve and change sometimes our wants, and our desires evolve as well, too. So I love the fact that you were able to do that. And to kind of figure out how best you wanted to fulfil it in creating purpose within your life.

Grant Aldrich 3:31

And that's so true. Like, you know, I think a good analogy would be when you, you know, you take off in a ship, right on a destination, you have a compass, and you chart that course and you things change in your life, or there are things that kind of come in, and you do have to update that. I mean, I think you and I both agree that we probably went on the same path of life that we wanted when we were 23 as opposed to where we're at now. It would be a far different trip. Fulfilling, right, we've made some stops and changes along the way. That's okay. But I think the key thing is, as you said, we ask ourselves, and we go through that exercise where so many people, just get so consumed by their daily responsibilities and stress, and I totally get it. It's a natural thing. But it they're doing a disservice to themselves. Because I think that they end up never really being happy because they don't either. They don't ask themselves to understand who they are and what will make them happy.

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Gresham Harkless 4:24

Exactly. Yeah. And a lot of times they've reached that success or reached that finish line or even that point, I should probably say more accurately, you have to understand what that point is and what that looks like. If you never figure out what that is. You're constantly running around and in search of what you don't know what you're in search of.

Grant Aldrich 4:40

Yeah, and that's so tragic. Think about it like how sad it is for someone that you never get there to over that destination, isn't it? Man, I agree.

Gresham Harkless 4:47

Yeah, absolutely. So I know I touched on it, eat it as well, too. I want to hear a little bit more about your business now your startup that you're working on now. Can you take us through exactly what you're doing and how you're tackling your mission?

Grant Aldrich 4:57

Yeah, so the mission is to make college more affordable and accessible for everybody. Right now, there's a huge problem that there are 35, well estimated 35 to 40 million working adults who either need or want to upskill, but just are not able to take that first step. And that's even before you know this whole Coronavirus, and what's happening now in the new world that we're going to live in. So before that, that was the case. And I think emerging out of this, it's going to be an even bigger issue, and greater. So here's how it works. I created online degree.com, where anybody can get started in 60 seconds, with no applications, no entrance exams, and start taking as many college-level courses as they'd like for credit towards their degree. And we also work different discounts and things and get universities to save. And we do it all for free.

Gresham Harkless 5:47

That's absolutely awesome and hard to even believe. But I think it's just so important. You know, because I think there's been a lot of kind of information around whether you know, college is important. And I believe, you know, I'm graduating everything soon. So I believe it definitely is. But I think this the method by which you can do it can be tweaked. And that's why I love everything that you've created. Because I think that you still need that knowledge, you still need that thirst to kind of sharpen the saw, so to speak in so many different ways. It's just become really difficult to do it for a lot of people because of the amount of debt and because of what you end up leaving college with. So I love that you've been able to kind of create a solution to that problem that people have.

Grant Aldrich 6:23

Well, thank you. And you're right. I mean, I think if you surveyed almost anybody on the street, they and in a vacuum, it's a do, would you ideally want it to agree? They would say yes. But the problem has been, it's just to your point that the cost-benefit has become so out of whack with the amount of cost and the inaccessibility for a working adult to go back to school because working adults have far different challenges and expectations than you know, an 18-year-old going into college. And so you're right. That's what I feel that we've really brought back into balance, we've made it so that it doesn't have to cost that much. It can work within your schedule. You don't need to do this big leap into the pool, you can wait and kind of try it out, see if it's for you. And that's what I think is the big benefit we've done.

Gresham Harkless 7:05

Yeah, absolutely. That's one of the biggest things about college, the least that I can remember too, is having that opportunity to kind of try different classes, different things. But as we were talking about what that cost that they you know, sometimes you would have, you wouldn't want to try as many things which is I think one of the greatest things for college, but really in life as well to be able to kind of, you know, kick the tires against different things to see what your interests are and see who you are, as we kind of spoke about and understanding your mission and your goal.

Grant Aldrich 7:28

And I think you just nailed it because that's right. I mean, think about it kind of makes sense why so many people aren't taking that giant leap to enrol. It's a big leap, you have to do all the financial requirements, you have to basically say, I'm going to make this commitment, I'm going to you know, change my lifestyle, all these big things. But like, to your point, why not come in, right? This is what our platform does, you can come in and start exploring some topics because I mean, look, even when we're in our 30s or 40s, we don't always know we want to be when we grow up back to our earlier point. And you can come in and say take an introduction to computer science course see if you like it, take a robotics course take accounting or marketing, all these really cool things to see, hey, you know, what career might be of real interest to me?

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And so that's the really cool part like the whole let me let me get exploring right now. And the other psychological impediment that we really help all of our adults overcome, can we be successful? Can we do this in our free time? And you definitely can right and you can 30 minutes here at night, you know, 30 minutes while making dinner with the kids or you know, while you're on the couch. Can I will I be successful? I don't want to go into oh and a school has a horrible first quarter or semester and then it's all my record No, no, come in, get used to an online learning format and then you can take that and apply it towards the degree. It's really cool.

Gresham Harkless 8:51

Yeah, it's awesome. And I feel like it's right in alignment with I think how you know life and as we've kind of talked about before we got started the businesses where there's not necessarily one way to skin a cat and I think that the ability to have it be more flexible around your schedule if you have kids or other you know, things that you have to take care of, it's a lot harder to make that jump into, you know, maybe enrolling into a programme taking on that debt. So now you have that flexibility to be able to help work around your schedule and the things that you have to do and still be able to kind of get that degree and everything that you want to get.

Grant Aldrich 9:21

Yeah, that's right.

Gresham Harkless 9:22

Exactly. Awesome. So I want to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce and it can be for you personally or your business but what do you feel kind of sets you guys about or guys apart and makes you unique and different?

Grant Aldrich 9:34

You know I would start with me personally on that and I think that one thing that makes me different is I feel that I've gone through the right exercises to know myself and that was the first thing that's the foundation kind of we talked about before right so I knew going into this one because this is my not my first rodeo done this a few times. And I know myself and what I'm not good at and what I'm decent at. The second thing is after I also knew myself I knew that my family was first and foremost, I want to be able to spend time with them. So the way that I approach every single day is I look up at a picture and a letter that I wrote myself with my family. And I asked myself, say, is what I'm doing right now an effective use of my time so I can get back and be with them?

And anybody who has ever started, a company knows that it is a black hole of time commitment, because you're so enthused and passionate to make it successful, you people will spend 20 hours a day working. But the problem is, is that it's not always the best time spent. Because you get into this mode, where you feel that the more time you spend, the more likely you'll be successful. But that's usually not always the case. A lot of times, it's the right amount of time. And so as an entrepreneur, you really have to be good at swatting flies and distractions away and very honing in on what is the most important thing I need to be doing right now. And you need to give yourself that alternative that you're weighing your time against because you begin to not value your own time. So for me, it's my family time.

Gresham Harkless 11:06

Yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to switch gears a little bit. And I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app or book or habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Grant Aldrich 11:18

I don't have a virtual assistant. Okay, so I know and I know, this is something that we all hear all over, every you know, every person on the internet will talk about, I'm not saying everybody you know, it's very, very common prescribe, you have to have a virtual assistant. And I think that this came a lot from the four-hour workweek, right? Like, there's a lot of books that really kind of spurred this whole thing. I think if you have a virtual assistant, you've done something wrong. And this is a weird thing to say. And I'm not and of course, I'm generalising This is not for every situation. But for me, I pride myself on how I'm able to use automation to make me so much more effective as opposed to managing a person. Because a person, I have team members, and those team members have a lot of responses.

But they're not my virtual assistant, they're not as they have their own roles where they're operating independently. They're driving that ship, and I empower them. If you have someone who's completely dependent on you to make you more effective, it's actually a big-time suck. Because you have to manage that person, you have to always make sure that they're busy. You have to, you're constantly coming up with things to give them that's probably not appropriate, right? Like, Hey, could you email these people or schedule this for me? Why don't you just have an email scheduling software? Right? I mean, like, there's so many things in terms of driving your costs down and your mental commitment of time with automation, as opposed to a virtual assistant. So that's a big one. I think that I tried.

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Gresham Harkless 12:48

Absolutely. No, I love that. I never thought about it like that. So I appreciate you for sharing that, hack, and what about a co nugget? So this could be like a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, or something you might say if you were to happen to a time machine and tell your younger business self.

Grant Aldrich 13:01

A lot of things actually recovered really was that you know, I feel that it might be younger part of my career, I made a number of mistakes that could have been fatal. And I was lucky that they were not. And so one of those was that I became distracted from the business model sometimes because of some cool kind of opportunity where none No, stay focused on what the business model is, what you're going to do, who you're going to serve, and don't run off doing projects because we often delude ourselves that these things will be Oh, it'll be quick. It'll be easy. We'll just kind of see it. Nothing's quick. Nothing's easy. It always takes more time and more effort. You're you're lying to yourself.

Gresham Harkless 13:38

Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favourite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. And we're hoping to have different, quote-unquote, CEOs on this show. So grant, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Grant Aldrich 13:47

It's the utmost responsibility and the utmost freedom. And that is a scary paradigm and an exhilarating paradigm in and of itself. So in one sense, you have to realise that everything is going to come to you. And ultimately, you have to bear that responsibility. Of the business's success or individual's happiness within your organisation, everything travels uphill, people don't realise that the old saying your ship runs uphill in the Senate. That's totally true. And yet, it is a beautiful thing, because you are given the ability to mould an entire organisation around your dream and your vision.

Gresham Harkless 14:30

I definitely appreciate that flashback. And that definition as well to what I wanted to do was kind of pass you the mic so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional. You want to let our readers and listeners know and of course, how best they can get ahold of you and find out about all the awesome things you guys are working on.

Grant Aldrich 14:44

Well, by the way, because I think it's interesting that we both have our initial roots in retail, right, which I think is a humbling experience. Retail is a humbling experience. I was also a server for many years in college man there's just learning.

Gresham Harkless 14:59


Grant Aldrich 15:00

I've got a lot of admiration for people who do that day in and day.

Gresham Harkless 15:02

Exactly, especially when doing it now.

Grant Aldrich 15:04

Oh, yeah. Oh my gosh, you know, thank you for having me on, you know, in terms of, I would really, I really would ask that the listeners to have that exercise give themselves that chance that opportunity to say, you know, put down the TV or put down the book, put down the iPad, whatever it is, and take some time to really ask yourself what you want what's gonna make you happy. And I think that people would realise a lot of things that they're using to fill that void that they think will make them happy, perhaps materialism, you know, things that they buy, or that next vacation, they realise doesn't really make them happy long term.

And I think that's the best piece of advice that I could give. And then the best next part is man makes something great. It makes something beautiful. I would love to hear from people. You know, the best way is on I'm on LinkedIn, I'm pretty active on LinkedIn. So if you type in LinkedIn and you search for either grant Aldridge or online degree.com You know, I should definitely come up. And you know, they can definitely keep track of the project and what we're doing onlinedegree.com That'd be great or on Facebook.

Gresham Harkless 16:07

Awesome, and to make it even easier. We will have the links and information in the show notes so that everybody can click through and connect and follow up with you. But definitely appreciate your grant for all the wisdom and information that you provided today. And of course the flashback to Memory Lane and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:23

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes Google Play and everywhere you listen to podcasts, SUBSCRIBE, and leave us a five-star rating grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

[fusebox transcript]


Mercy - CBNation Team

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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