As President of New Frontiers, Daniel provides the overall strategic direction and short/long term planning agenda, while overseeing the financial, marketing and business development aspects of the business. NF is an executive functioning coaching organization. NF provides academic, social, transitional and vocational supports to students with a range of abilities and interests, allowing them to maximize their potential—successful, independent, self-advocating adults. After the sale of a majority of the assets of MetSchools, his family’s education business, Daniel’s focus moved to the special education practice within the MetSchools portfolio (including Aaron School and Rebecca School).
This ultimately led to the founding of NF, in response to a recurring pattern of students (with or without learning differences) transitioning to college (and/or other post High School life experiences) without being fully prepared for the new expectations assigned to them at the next stage of life. NF’s individualized coaching model works on the HOW to address the initial challenges of establishing strategies for success, while ultimately reducing our presence in the equation (as self-advocacy skills improve) so that there isn’t a continuous reliance on the coach—rather, that responsibility is shifted to the individual receiving support.
Daniel is a member of Young Presidents Organization and holds a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from George Washington University. He is also currently sits on the Pace University Lubin School of Business Transformative Leadership Advisory Board. Personally, he is married with 3 children, including a set of twins, and lives in New York City.
Where did the idea for New Frontiers come from?
My family’s business, which my father established with my mother in the 1980’s, is building and operating private schools, in/around the NYC/Metropolitan area. Over the years we’ve managed programs that serve the full spectrum of populations, from general to special education, early childhood to K12, funded to private pay. One of our schools (which we’ve since sold but it continues to serve the community in NYC) was geared towards an LD (learning differences) population. As those students began to approach graduation, parents began to grow concerned about how their sons and daughters would manage the potentially complicated transition to a post-secondary (or professional) environment. This sparked a series of discussions and research that ultimately motivated me to establish an individualized coaching program, focused on executive functioning, academic and transition supports, and here we are 8 years later and counting!
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Starts around 5am. Catch up on some work, read a little, then gym at 5:30am sharp. Go HARD for anywhere from 45 min to 2 hours, depending on the day/program. Breakfast/mess around with the kids (I have 3, Chloe, Lucas and Lily, all under 7 years old). Out the door by 8:00am (my office is a 10 minute walk from my apartment). Most days are scheduled at least a week in advance, and I don’t even know what I’m getting into until I check my calendar that AM. When I do have lighter days, I tend to spend more time on the tactical tasks (research around and outreach to potential collaborators/referral sources) as well as overseeing our digital marketing efforts— so a lot of focus on driving business.
I make it productive by being intentional with my time, really ensuring that the limited time I have to be focused at work (as compared to family responsibilities or personal obligations—which I also try to be intentional with) is dedicated to that effort from wire to wire. We also measure everything we do, and review it on at least a weekly basis. Numbers don’t lie.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My best ideas come when I am either about to fall asleep, in a yoga class, or in the shower (the only times I am not absolutely bombarded by noise/distractions).
In my organization, ultimate responsibility for decisions and outcomes—good or bad—falls to me. That said, major programmatic and/or business decisions are made at the Admin Team level, and everyone has a voice. I bring ideas to the team and encourage them to rip them to shreds, and I don’t hold back in my feedback of ideas that are presented, positive or negative (though, HOW that’s communicated is very important to me—and something I strive to continuously improve at). Only if an idea is backed by the group will we allow it to be assigned to the appropriate person to build it out in concept, and either report back to the group and/or seek support as needed to develop it.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The shift to virtual. We’ve been (at least in part) both providing services virtually and working remotely as a team for a while now, and current circumstances are forcing everyone to demonstrate a high degree of proficiency in a short period of time.
It also opens up a huge market for us, and I think we are well-positioned to be very effective during this transition (and suspect we’ll be even more nimble on the other side as a result).
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Waking up earlier than is natural. Time is THE finite resource, and if you can use it wisely and/or manufacture more of it, you are at an advantage.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be more open minded/don’t rush to judgement. My wife, along with some key mentors, have done an incredible job over the years helping me appreciate the value of pausing before reacting, but it’s something ingrained in me and I don’t know where it came from and I’m working on it!
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That I’m usually right!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Read. I am reading constantly, all types of material and formats, and it never ceases to amaze me what nuggets I am able to find (on purpose or by accident), and how they can impact/inform decisions/actions in my professional (and personal) life.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Listening. It sounds obvious, and it’s not as catchy as “grinding” or some of the other/more popular clichés circulating these days, but I find it to be the hardest thing to do, and can have the biggest impact.
As it pertains to my staff, our clients, and the broader business community we operate in, the ability to listen to what people are saying can immensely inform decisions related to staffing, new products, marketing, resource allocation—in fact, I can’t think of any scenario when NOT listening proved to be a productive strategy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
During New Frontiers’ early days, and through a different division of my family’s business, we acquired a related service (Occupational/Speech Therapy) practice. I was tasked with overseeing operations. As a leadership team, we sometimes suffer from a classic entrepreneurial ailment that I call ‘letting our ambition get ahead of our abilities’. Don’t misunderstand, I am aware that this is the theme behind some of the most incredible breakthroughs in human history. In this case, however, it exposed our ignorance and lack of preparation, and it was not a successful effort. We ultimately ended up unwinding it a few years later. I learned two very important lessons: 1) never sign your name to something unless you have thoroughly done your due diligence (particularly of the downside and have it managed properly), and 2) don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you are asked a question that you aren’t absolutely sure of the answer. I would have saved myself (and those around me) a lot of aggravation had I really understood that beforehand, but I can guarantee I won’t make the same mistake again. For what it’s worth, it’s always the hard lessons that leave a real impact.
I overcame it the old-fashioned way—by licking my wounds, digesting and appreciating that lesson (and adding two new ‘rules to live by’ to my mental guidebook), re-focusing on more valuable opportunities in front of me (New Frontiers), and putting one foot in front of the other day after day.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
In many industries, there are platforms that exist to allow professionals to list themselves for potential clients to find them, alongside other competitors—making it easy for consumers to compare and contrast the different options available in that market. The education industry is no different—there are many iterations of this (the most commonly known is probably the U.S. World and News Report, which goes beyond listing and actually ranks colleges).
HOWEVER, there is nothing curated (to my knowledge) for supplemental educational services (tutors, test prep, executive functioning/academic coaching, etc…). I toyed with doing something about this a while back, but was never able to make meaningful progress beyond the research phase. There are tens of thousands of small businesses all over the country (and the world) providing these types of services, so I’m pretty sure there’s a market for this.
If you end up doing it, please contact me as I’d love to be involved!
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I got a new desk chair for my (home) office. It was that or permanent back problems. Definitely the right choice.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
A proprietary CRM called Azimuth that my brother (who has a Masters from Harvard in Management Information Systems) custom-built with our IT team to serve the specific needs of the family portfolio of schools, which we adapted for use at New Frontiers. It’s the first window I open on my computer every day.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Traction, by Gino Wickman. The book “offers a system that focuses on improving operations in key areas of an organization to improve growth, as well as easy-to-use tools that provide insight, and help leaders make quick decisions”. It was recommended to me by my business coach (and a few other people), and I’ve become a real evangelist of following the processes laid out. It’s made a huge positive difference in how we work both ON and IN the business. Super easy read too, can’t recommend it enough.
What is your favorite quote?
Can I offer two?
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Jesus)
“It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice” (credited to John Templeton, but I don’t think he coined it)
• Choose your partners—in business, and in life—wisely.
• Have confidence in your abilities and decisions—even if nobody else does.
• You only get one chance at life—make the most of it, every day.
• The early bird gets the worm (h/t DAD)
Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.