02.11.20

When is it the right time to spin off your university-affiliated center into a new organization?

Branding isn’t just about how things look; there’s also a strategic component to how you’re presenting yourself. We’ve seen centers that have launched in higher education environments and over time have spun off into independent entities. When is the right time to go out on your own? Here are some things to consider:

’Playing it safe’ is holding back innovation

There’s not much worse than arriving at a creative solution and not being able to fully implement it. Higher education centers can access the latest research, thinking, and experimentation to develop confident, innovative solutions to problems. If you’ve developed new research or theories of social change that feel unsafe to a university’s alumni and donor base, that shouldn’t stop you from putting them into practice.

Independent operations

From purchasing procedures to website hosting to how you charge for your services, higher education bureaucracy can slow down your ability to do what you need to do. If you have a clear goal and the elements for success, bureaucracy should not be the thing that’s holding you back. The freedom to operate independently is one reason that entrepreneurs are able to make headway so quickly, and your own work may progress faster without all the red tape.

Reach a wider audience

When you’re selling a solution, in many ways, it ceases to be about you. You want to demonstrate value and understanding through the language that your target audience uses. If you are offering evaluation services to public health nonprofits, for example, they aren’t necessarily interested in the nuances of evaluation itself; they want to know how the data will speed improvements for the population they’re serving. Looking and feeling like your audience—down to the name of your organization, product, or service—are all good reasons to rethink your brand position.

Theory meets practice

Academia and research create a culture of questioning that repeatedly and ruthlessly tests and verifies ideas. That’s important. However, sometimes you figure out a solution that’s ready to be implemented, and it’s time to shift into practice. Orienting confidently around a single solution to a problem requires a rework of brand strategy. When you’re ready to make the shift from exploring questions to proposing answers, you may be ready to spin off.

When you shouldn’t spin off

One word: sustainability. An education affiliation provides a valuable foundation for audience, exposure, and operations support. Without a solid plan to account for some of these realities, it’s probably not the right time yet. Of course, we can help you build the brand equity that makes the spinoff jump less scary.

Is spinning off your higher education center something you’re exploring? Get in touch with us to see how we can help. Email info@creativedistillery.com or call 601.326.2388.

View marketing work we've created for university centers.