Hansel Lynn has thrived at the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship throughout his career. After earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science and Economics from Washington University in St. Louis, Hansel worked as a consultant for Accenture before assuming leadership positions within multiple tech firms. In 2002, Hansel co-founded Fantasy TeeVee, a fantasy sports-style game modeled around weekly television programming.
After nearly 20 years in the tech world, Hansel further pursued his entrepreneurial ambitions by opening a kids-focused music education franchise. Within a year of operations, he grew his student roster to over 100 kids.
Inspired by the success he saw by following a franchise model centered around immersive education, Hansel founded theCoderSchool. The business was built to provide computer programming lessons to children ages 7 to 18. Shortly after starting, Hansel brought on his long-time friend and Silicon Valley veteran, Wayne Teng.
Together, Hansel and Wayne have opened over 50 schools operating in over 15 states. Identified as one of Entrepreneur magazine’s hottest brands, theCoderSchool continues to expand its national footprint with several locations in development in major U.S. and Canadian markets.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Hansel Lynn: My name is Hansel Lynn and I am the founder and CEO of theCoderSchool franchise. Along with my good friend, Wayne Teng, we built theCoderSchool into a business that offers a supportive environment for kids to learn and have fun. I founded theCoderSchool in 2014 (brought in Wayne shortly after) and there are now over 55 locations across 15 states.
Before founding theCoderSchool, I spent much of my early career in the high tech corporate world. I also ran my own rock music school for kids and developed Bay Area real estate- I guess you can say I’ve dabbled in quite a few different business ventures!
A little more about me, I am a published co-author of two children’s coding books, an avid endurance athlete, an active Ironman triathlete, and I am fluent in Cantonese. I also recently opened a dessert store, Cudos Frozen Custard and Mini Donuts, with my wife, Lisa. We have three amazing kids and currently reside in Palo Alto.
2020 and 2021 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2022? What lessons have you learned?
Hansel Lynn: The past few years have definitely been unpredictable! With the pandemic, I’ve been constantly reminded that flexibility is super important when running a business. Now more than ever, plans are always changing so I’ve learned that you have to be ready to roll with what life throws at you. Whether there’s a supply chain shortage or a spike in COVID-19 cases, many business operations have been delayed, so patience and understanding have been very important for me these past few years.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2022? What advice would you share?
Hansel Lynn: I think a lot of businesses need to focus more on building relationships with their employees and their customers. Loyalty is very important when times are hard, so as the pandemic continues on, I think building a strong foundation between those who make your business successful is a great thing to focus on.
Additionally, I consider theCoderSchool to be a lifestyle business, which means it wasn’t founded just to focus on making money but instead, focus on living a particular lifestyle. We love what we do at theCoderSchool, which is why I think it has been so successful. I encourage business owners to take a look at their own businesses and see how they can incorporate aspects of a lifestyle business into their own model because at the end of the day, there is nothing that can replace happiness in the workplace!
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Hansel Lynn: Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a lot of parents looking to get their children into new activities because so many activities such as sports, theater, and dance classes have been cancelled. To adapt, we have begun offering a lot more virtual coding classes that kids can take when in-person activities aren’t feasible.
Overall, we have seen an increase in popularity for theCoderSchool classes because as a lot of the world has moved to virtual operations, coding is becoming more and more of an essential skill than ever before!
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2022?
Hansel Lynn: I think everyone would have loved this advice – be ready for a long-term pandemic. The hardest part about the pandemic when it started was not knowing what it was and how long it would last. In 2022, we hope to get back as close to 100% in-person teaching as possible, something that’s so core to theCoderSchool. While we’ll still offer our virtual lessons, we’ve always felt there’s no replacement for an in-person touch. Let’s hope the pandemic allows us to do so!
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2022?
Hansel Lynn: I am anticipating that virtual meetings and remote work will still be very popular in 2022. I think that similar to 2021, this year will bring a lot of ups and downs with COVID-19 cases and everyone will have to adapt to what is best in the moment. I plan to follow the CDC guidelines to keep all of theCoderSchool employees and students safe, which I anticipate will continually be changing throughout the year. I’ll continue to monitor the pandemic and be ready to adapt at any time necessary.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Hansel Lynn: 10 hours a day.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Hansel Lynn: My go-to story is the importance of real-life learning. At theCoderSchool, we teach not through curriculum but through immersion, a just-do-it mentality. This is something that’s not as intuitive in a “school” setting. In my story, I ask folks how much of what they learned in college really is used in their professional jobs. The truth is, in almost all industries, not a lot. I went to school for Computer Science and did multiple page problem sets, worked with transistors, coded in archaic assembly language – all to get my diploma. But it’s all theoretical, and really didn’t apply to a real-life job as software developer. How did I learn that? My boss handed me my assignment and I did it. Then I did another, and another. And through the power of immersion and just “doing it” – not my Computer Science degree – I got really good at my job.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Hansel Lynn: Despite the fear and uncertainty, folks out there are opening new businesses in record numbers. That gives my franchisee prospects other choices, whether it’s another system or starting their own thing. To continue my growth path, I’ll need to stand out from the competition even more.
In 2022, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Hansel Lynn: Definitely not NFTs! I have an aversion to them in fact – one too many articles about how the next-door neighbor 8-year-old minted millions with an NFT, and now they want to learn how at theCoderSchool! I’d love to learn more about how to be a better influencer, to perhaps combat some of that (spoiler alert, making NFT’s isn’t coding), and just a better all-around social media user.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Hansel Lynn: I definitely think a lot leaders can be oblivious to some of the issues within their company. I think that some leaders get carried away focusing solely on profit and growth, and forget about the people at their business that make success possible! I believe that a lot of leaders need to take the time to reflect on what makes their employees happy and what are the aspects of their business that need improvement. Open communication and the willingness to make change are critical skills to have when running a successful business.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Hansel Lynn: Foresight. Where will this company be in 5 years, who will be joining us, will the pandemic continue? As with any business leader, a crystal ball would make my decisions that much easier.
What does “success” in 2022 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Hansel Lynn: Continued happy and tight-knit family. A successful dessert business. Showing up at 2 Ironman races without injury. And of course, happy franchisees!
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Hansel Lynn for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Hansel Lynn or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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