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Is the Student Works Management Program the ultimate management experience or a total scam?
The Student Works Management Program claims to be the ultimate experience for young entrepreneurs. Over the course of 8 months, they promise to teach you how to start your own service business, how to market effectively, how to sell to clients, how to hire and train employees and ultimately how to be an entrepreneur.
So, is the Student Works Management Program legit? Is it the life-changing opportunity so many people claim it is? Or is it a scam? Or simply a waste of time…
These are the questions I asked myself when I applied on campus for the Student Works Management Program. The problem was, I couldn’t find any reviews detailing the experience and what to expect, and I was left to make an important decision with only limited information.
In the end, I decided to put my trust in the Student Works team, and now that I’ve gone through to experience, I can share with you all the best and worst parts of being an Operator within the Management Program.
So here’s why I put this review together:
- I took on the Student Works Management Program myself and I want to share the results.
- There are thousands of students each year considering this program who would appreciate an honest review.
- There are a lot of students who want to become entrepreneurs and managers and they will absolutely want to hear about my experience.
- There aren’t many balanced reviews of this program available online and I’d like to help solve that problem.
Obviously, if all wanted to say was “Yes, it’s a scam,” or “No, it’s not a scam,” there would be little point in writing out a review. There’s a lot of complexity to evaluating a program like this so here’s what I’ll be covering:
- Breakdown of the best and worst parts of the Management Program.
- A discussion of who the Student Works Management Program is for and whether or not it’s effective.
- Account of my personal experience and how this program impacted my career.
So that’s enough of an introduction, let’s dig in.
Who Am I?
This is me back when I applied to be a first-year Operator along with some information about me.
I was a first-year student at Carleton University, doing a Bachelor of Engineering. I grew up just outside Ottawa, in Luskville, Quebec. I played some rugby in high school and love taking on any sort of challenge.
Since graduating from Carleton, I’ve started two of my own small businesses and started my career in real estate.
What Is the Student Works Management Program?
To evaluate whether or not something delivers on its promises, we first need to discuss the promises. Let’s look at what the Student Works Management Program claims to be. The next bits are pulled directly from the program’s website, you can click here to view it.
Learn everything, conquer anything.
The Student Works Management Program is an immersive development opportunity where full-time students learn the practical skills necessary for business leadership, and then apply those skills by operating their own service business over the summer break. If you’re looking to take charge of your career – and are up for a challenge – then this program may be right for you. As a Student Works Manager, you will gain skills and practical knowledge to set up you for success after graduation.
The program promises to provide you with business experience in each of the following areas:
- Sales: Develop the ability to influence others and bring them around to see your point of view.
- Time Management: Make more of each day and learn to execute on your goals and ideas around all your commitments.
- Marketing: Learn to promote your ideas and attract customers who want to work with you.
- Leadership: Learn to recruit great people, train and motivate them, manage projects and customer relations.
Of course, not only do we want to learn, but some promises are particularly important and matter more than others. Here are the promises on which I will be basing my review.
- Student Works teaches important and relevant skills that will help me have a successful career.
- The level of support is as extensive as promised and I won’t be left out to dry.
- The program is manageable around school and won’t impact my University negatively.
- I’ll be able to earn a reasonable income running a business with Student Works. The program claims to have average first-year profits of about $15,000.
To me, these were the most important promises because ultimately, I wanted to do this program for the skills I would gain. But with that being said, I need to earn enough to pay for tuition and I need to maintain an A to keep my entrance scholarship.
I will also put an emphasis on the importance of time management as this was an important part of what would allow someone to run a business while in University full-time.
Now that we know what the course claims to be, let’s look at what it actually delivers.
Student Works Management Program: The Review
So let’s dive into my experience in the program, pick it apart, and see what the best and worst parts of it are. I’ve decided to break down my review into the following sections:
- The Business Plan: Does it work?
- Full Overview of the Experience:
a. Training Seminars
b. The winter semester (managing Student Works around classes)
c. The summer
d. My District Manager and their support and training
- Earnings and Profitability (Did I make money?)
- Company Culture (Is it a fun environment?)
Here’s a picture I took at the January training seminar, which is really where everything starts:
The Business Plan – Does It Work? (Rated A+)
In short, yes it does. I’d even go as far as to say it works extremely well. Now the business plan is probably the best part of the whole program and where Student Works really delivers powerfully.
As soon as you start attending the training seminars, it becomes quite obvious that the systems have been developed over decades and refined by the thousands of people who have gone through the Management Program and run their own business.
The things you learn from Student Works can be broken down into different parts and I find it’s helpful to understand each one separately.
Marketing and Sales (A++)
This area is probably the main reason I gave the business plan and A+. Student Works knows how to market a business and turn those interested leads into customers better than the vast majority of sales organizations out there.
As long as you follow their instructions and put in the work, you won’t have any issues getting more work than you can handle.
Be prepared to do door to door marketing, make calls to customers and go to estimates to secure work as it is an important part of running a successful business.
Recruiting (Rated B+)
This was probably the least obvious area of the system because there are so many different approaches people take to recruit their employees and interview them effectively.
Student Works does a good job here presenting you with the different options and tools you have available to you, but recruiting does require a bit more trial and error to figure out what will work for you.
I rated this a B+ because although it wasn’t entirely clear which option was the best, they did provide me with all the recruiting methods I needed to find employees and quickly learn which methods worked best for me.
Project Management (Rated A+)
I was very well supported when it came to project management. The systems are quite complete here and do provide you with the best step-by-step approach to managing employees and job sites and keeping everything on track.
There was often so much to learn that it was hard to do it all correctly from the start and I found myself wishing I’d listened better every time I deviated from the systems.
The best part, however, was how my mentor helped me start my first team and periodically visited my job sites to help me improve in the areas where I wasn’t doing what I should be doing. He even helped me deal with bigger client issues that I likely would not have been able to resolve on my own which was a total lifesaver.
Time Management (Rated A)
Most of the time management work is done during the weekly meetings with your mentor. They focus on 2 main things, namely something they call Practical Priorities and Whole-Life Weekly Block Planning.
Each week, my mentor and I reviewed my key priorities for the week around classes, assignments, business goals and my other commitments and designed a plan of attack for the week. It allowed me to go into each week with a clear plan of what I needed to do and when I needed to be doing it in order to get everything done.
Things always felt busy, but I was able to handle a lot more than I ever have before by using this planning strategy.
Pricing Jobs (Rated A)
This one was probably my biggest concern when I was considering whether or not to participate in the program. They had a surprisingly good system for estimating jobs which allowed me to get most of my estimates right.
I definitely made a few mistakes, especially in my first few estimates, but because the estimating process was robust and my mentor was checking on me, we caught the mistakes before it was too late and corrected them before starting the jobs.
In the end, I was able to earn a gross profit ranging between 20% and 35% on each job and once I’d done about 20 estimates it was consistently above 28%.
Full Program Overview: Rated by Section
Training Seminars (Rated A+)
The training seminars represent a shorter part of the program, but in my opinion, they are really important to the whole experience. You start the year off by attending January Training which is a really intensive 3-day weekend, and then there are follow up seminars throughout the year that are each a day long.
The seminars are well put together with PowerPoint slides to go along with speakers that are significantly more engaging than University professors. The days are quite long though, and a day January Training can easily be 10 hours long of presentations and exercises/role plays. The follow-up training is shorter, typically between 6 to 8 hours so those are much easier to manage.
They do provide food at these events, which is nice, and the food was typically pretty good.
The best part of the seminars for me was hearing from top-performing Operators who would share with the group what they were doing to get ahead and sharing pretty much all their strategies. It was nice to be in an environment that was competitive, but where people simultaneously shared all their best practices and tried to help each other do well.
As a bonus, a few of the very successful alumni came in to share what they were doing and how they got into it. It was pretty inspiring to see some of these entrepreneurs share their experiences with us and gave me some ideas as to what I could do when I graduate.
The Winter Semester (Rated B+) *** Hardest Part With the Most Learning Involved
Throughout the year, I was faced with 2 really big challenges, and the first one was managing my time throughout the pre-season (the second big challenge came in the summer months). Student Works does a great job of helping you create an action plan that breaks down what you need to do each week to hit your goals, and it’s not always easy to manage. You’ve got to be committed to working hard and studying without much partying or wasting time on Netflix.
What I liked was that I got to set the goals I wanted to achieve, and then my mentor (the District Manager) helped me to figure out exactly what I needed to do to get there. We were able to put together a very clear plan for each week. I was pretty surprised with how much time I actually had available when I planned it all out. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean it was easy, and I often had to give up going out to parties and events in order to make sure I had time to do well with my business and in my classes.
After attending the Student Works training seminar in January, I spent most of February, March and April focused on learning marketing and how to get leads, doing sales and recruiting my team for the summer. The marketing plan involved some door to door marketing, attending home shows, putting up lawn signs, doing some social media posts and working through referrals and past clients of the company to generate leads. It wasn’t a particularly difficult step to learn but it was a very important one. Those who struggle in the pre-season often do so because they aren’t willing to put themselves out there and do enough marketing. My communication skills were an important part of doing well here. At least half of my time spent on my business each week (7-10 hours) went into marketing activities and making calls to turn those leads into estimates.
After I found about 25 people who were interested in getting an estimate to have painting work done on their house, it was time for my mentor to teach me how to do sales. We set up a day of estimates together and he helped me to close my first 3 jobs for a total of just over $7000 in sales. From there, I did anywhere from 2 to 7 estimates each week for the remainder of the semester. Some weeks would go really well, and I’d manage to get some bigger jobs while others were harder because I would hit a dry spell and wouldn’t do many estimates.
By the end of the semester, so this is about 12 weeks into the Management Program, I’d managed to secure $42,657 in painting contracts (with client deposits) across 26 clients out of a total of 39 estimates. This was enough work to give me a good start to my summer and helped me to feel confident I’d be able to keep my workers busy all summer.
The other main activity of the winter was recruiting workers to join my team in the summer. I got most of my painters from a combination of posting on Instagram and asking friends to share the job opportunity on Facebook. Since your goal as a Student Works Manager is to hire other students to work for you, I wanted to find hard-working people who were also in school and living in Chelsea, where I lived.
I recruited the other half of my team by posting jobs on Kijiji and Indeed. The most important part of the process though was the coaching I got from my District Manager on how to properly interview people in order to pick the best ones and identify the bad apples.
It took about 30 interviews (I didn’t really keep track) until I had my team picked out and ready to go for the summer. In hindsight, I wish I had done even more recruiting, but almost every first-year Operator said that by the end of the summer. If you’re accepted into the program yourself, don’t undervalue the importance of recruiting a great team of people and doing a ton of interviews.
After a few weeks of balancing classes with estimates, interviews and marketing, I got pretty good at managing the workload and I started to feel much less stressful. When exams happened, I did extra work on the weeks leading up to my busy exam weeks and during my exams, I focused more on my studies and set lower business activity goals. Then, as soon as I finished writing exams, I was right back on the grind. That’s probably the best part of being a business owner, you get to set your own schedule. I do recommend making sure not to fall behind in your classes as a few of my friends who were also Managers did and it made their exam period much more stressful than it needed to be.
In the end, despite being a demanding and difficult time, I am extremely thankful for the experience of starting my first business around my classes. Over the winter semester, I learned incredible work ethic and time management, I became a very effective salesperson and I learned the basics of hiring people. This translated to my Fall semester (after I had completed the Student Works program) being incredibly easy.
The summer would bring a whole new set of challenges and things to learn, but the work I did in the pre-season was critical in preparing me for the summer. My grades weren’t immediately impacted by my participation in the Student Works Management Program, but they did improve the following year because I had become significantly better at managing my time.
I do want to stress that I did have to give up a lot of partying and a lot of spare time where I would have otherwise relaxed, but to me, the experience I gained was worth the effort I put into it.
The Summer (Rated A-)
Once I was done exams, it was time to prepare for what would turn out to be the biggest challenge of the year; managing crews, job sites and clients.
About a week after my last exam, I had a meeting with my District Manager, and we chose some easy jobs for me and my first team to start on. I had been learning to paint at the training put on by my District Manager and it was time to start training painters. We got some paint and practiced at my parents’ house to get the hang of it.
Once we were feeling comfortable enough with our skills, we scheduled the first job and my District Manager came with my team and me to our first-ever painting project. We were painting some trim around a smaller house and it was a single day job. My District Manager helped me through the whole process up until we collected our first cheque so I would get to see how the whole thing worked.
Despite the training, I made quite a few mistakes throughout my first few weeks in business. I had to let go of an employee with a bad attitude and replace them with someone new. I had a few clients who we messed up on and we had to go back and fix things. And I had a few jobs take too long and not make as much profit as I wanted. Each time, I would learn from the mistakes I made, and I would get better. You have to have thick skin, and even then, your skin will get thicker as you go, and you face those upset customers or deal with those job site issues.
My day to day summer would involve getting up around 6:30 am, having breakfast and checking up on my materials to make sure I had everything I needed loaded into my car for the day. Then I would go to my first job site for 8:00 am where I would set up my first crew and make sure they had a plan to tackle the work for the day. Starting in June, I would usually start a second crew around 9:00am and spend the rest of the day back and forth between training or recruiting a new worker, doing more estimates and selling jobs, solving problems on-site and doing final walkarounds to collect cheques from clients.
Every two weeks, we had company events, which people referred to as “payroll events”. Some were more fun than others, namely, the White-Water Rafting weekend and water park day were my favourites. Mostly only the top performers and more committed Managers show up to these events which is good because it really gives you a chance to hang out and exchange ideas with all the smartest people. Because of these events, about half of my friends are now past Student Works Managers who operated at the same time I did. I have yet to find a company with such a fun yet driven culture.
Overall, my summer was stressful (at times) and I worked pretty insane hours throughout May and June to get things up and off the ground. As promised though, I also had a blast and most importantly, I learned exactly how to manage employees, job sites and clients and I became a highly-effective project manager. This was pretty valuable for me when I launched my first business and later on when I started working and investing in real estate.
Earnings and Profitability – Did I Make Money? (Rated A)
There are two things we want to understand in this section. The first is how much money I made overall, and the second is whether or not that money was worth the time I invested. In the end, this section ignores the value of what I learned, which is really why I did the program. I did this because I wanted to show how the earnings stand up against other employment opportunities if you aren’t all that interested in the growth and development afforded by being a manager.
Throughout the summer, my business generated $104,433 in total revenue over 39 jobs. I did just 50 estimates (I didn’t put them all in the system) to get these jobs and acquired over 130 leads throughout the season.
*** Screenshots are taken from my account within the Student Works CRM.
My gross profit on my business was $31,838 and my net profit (once I accounted for things like gas) ended up being closer to $29,658. I could have done much better, but I did get a little too excited when it came to buying supplies and I overspent compared to what I was putting aside in my estimates.
If I look at my season, I figure I put in roughly 1200 hours (which is higher than average), which gave me an hourly wage of $24.71/hour. I didn’t really look at this throughout the season, but I added it up at the end and it worked out to be pretty good. When I compared with other first-year managers, I was in the top 30% in terms of earnings. Now I don’t think anyone would have made less than $15/hour, it’s just that a lot of people don’t end up working that hard on their business and it shows in their overall profits.
The highest earnings I’ve heard of from first-year managers was about $55,000, while some of the most successful veteran managers were making over $70,000-$80,000 in one summer.
My Advice: If all you care about is making the most money, don’t become a manager with Student Works. Those who came into the program caring only about their earnings and not about their clients and personal development almost always did much worse financially than managers who were motivated by the development and for who the money was a secondary goal and benefit of doing the job well.
Company Culture – Is It Fun? (Rated A+++)
As I stated above, I think the company culture at Student Works is one of the best parts. They really take the time to set up fun events to get everyone together and I’ve never seen a company that brings together so many like-minded ambitious, hardworking and overall awesome people into one group.
The friends I made at Student Works are some of my best friends and are people who I’ll be staying in touch with my whole life. There’s something about having that experience in common which sets you apart from others and brings you together.
Here are some examples; Adam became VP of marketing for a tech company and we regularly work on real estate deals together, James is a successful entrepreneur in the Airbnb field, and Adel started and runs a $10M roofing business at 26. It’s a great group of people to be around!
Do I Recommend the Student Works Management Program?
Absolutely. Student Works was a life-changing opportunity for me, and they delivered on all their promises, namely the four I listed at the start of this review.
- Skill development: The skills I learned through the Management Program allowed me to successfully launch my own business and allowed me to have tons of success in the world of real estate investing. My friends have used their skills to start tech companies and quickly climb the ladder within their careers.
- Support you can count on: The level of support I was provided was incredibly thorough. I got help whenever I needed it. I want to be clear though, no one came in to fix problems for me, I just always had someone I could call to help me with each issue.
- Manageable around full-time studies: The program was totally manageable around school and the training and development I got really helped me increase my grades in my later years of University.
- Great earning potential: The earnings were exactly as described. I earned a really good profit ($26,700) in my first year as a manager and made truly ridiculous money as a second-year Operator.
I do want to specify that the Student Works Management Program is only right for some people, and not everyone should apply. Hence this next section…
To Whom Do I Recommend the Student Works Management Program?
As I stated, Student Works is the perfect place for the right people to get the experience they need to fast start their careers, but how do you know if that’s you. As far as I am concerned, Student Works is for:
- Students who are chasing after a really big future as managers, entrepreneurs, founders or who want to take on a leadership role in their career and future.
- People who are willing to put in hard work and long hours required by real entrepreneurship.
- Students who want to stand out and are willing to sacrifice partying and/or Netflix to fast start their career in a significant way.
- People who will listen to the coaching and training they are given.
- People who aren’t afraid to take charge, get on the phone, do sales face to face and will deal with challenges head-on.
- People willing to grow and challenge themselves who aren’t afraid to tackle problems head-on.
Who is Student Works not for?
- Wantrepreneurs who like the idea of being successful but aren’t willing to put in the work.
- People who don’t listen or take coaching well and aren’t willing to be challenged.
- People not willing to make changes or do things that make them uncomfortable.
- People who avoid responsibility and want a simple and easy 9 to 5.
- People looking for the “4-hour Work Week” who want to spend their summer relaxing and don’t want a busy schedule.
This is not one of those situations where you land a job with Student Works and you make tons of money stress-free while kicking back and watching others work. There’s a lot of work involved in building a successful business.
You will be running your own business and regardless of how well the systems are developed and how good the support is, you need to make it happen. If you don’t show up, the business will not build itself.
That’s not for everyone. There are a lot of people in this world built to be employees. They function best when they are showing up, clocking in, and having most of their decisions made for them.
That’s okay. If that’s you, Student Works will feel like a total waste of time. If you are expecting the benefits of entrepreneurship without all the downsides, you’ll be disappointed.
But for a lot of people, this program isn’t a scam at all. It’s the doorway they’ve been waiting for into the world of entrepreneurship and management.
Student Works review success story
Student Works has co-created 161 millionaires*, thanks to the experience and training they acquired as Managers. Their goal is to create 1000 millionaires and Chris Thomson has been working away at it for decades. In the meantime, thousands of students have had incredibly successful careers as a result of their experience.
As someone who was a part of that training, I can share that it was a completely life-changing experience for me.
If you want to hear more stories of what people went on to do, you can listen to the Leaders of Tomorrow podcast, where Chris regularly interviews alumni to share what they’ve gone on to do with their skills and what they’ve learned since leaving the program.
*chill out, they became millionaires by starting their own businesses or having crazy successful careers after finishing the program, not during the program lol
It’s possible that I’m a bit biased given how much this program has benefitted me. Nevertheless, each day I catch myself taking lessons or skills I’ve learned at Student Works for granted, and sometimes I think I underestimate how much of my success has come from the foundations I developed in the Management Program.
Overall, this program delivers on exactly what it promises; a challenging experience that will give you the opportunity to develop the skills and confidence you need to launch your own business or quickly move into a management role in your career.
It’s worth every second, and it will deliver, as long as you deliver your utmost effort into it.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.