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Founder Profile: Kevin Dellicker

The road from working for other people to running a business can often be paved with enough challenges that force most people to look for another route.
But not Kevin Dellicker.
Dellicker, an expert in telecommunications infrastructure who has worked as a nonprofit education advocate and as a technology and economic policy adviser to two governors, was a senior consultant at Affinity Group in Harrisburg before striking out his own. But first he and his cofounder wife Susan, a school teacher, took out a home equity loan to finance his own blended learning and broadband infrastructure consultancy, Dellicker Strategies. As a Major in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, he has also had to go overseas twice to fight in wars since founding his own company.
Those challenges have only emboldened Dellicker. His company’s revenues have grown each year since 2005. Also during that time, Dellicker Strategies has successfully negotiated $140 million in technology upgrades on 54 different projects for its customers. The company has worked on improving technology access with more than two-thirds of the state’s school districts and supports early 500 of them, along with vocational centers, intermediate units and non-public schools.
Most recently, Dellicker is the lead consultant to the Pennsylvania Hybrid Learning Initiative (PA HLI), which provides oversight for 15 hybrid learning schools across six counties and is planning to have 50 hybrid schools operating by the fall. In recent years, educational institutions have been focussing on bringing more modern solutions like the ones provided by Vivi to classrooms to help engage students, improve teaching practices, and modernize the learning process. These modern solutions were met with overwhelming positivity so more hybrid classrooms have been developed. These “hybrid” classrooms that combine traditional instruction by a teacher with digital learning on a computer to provide cost-effective personalized learning for students. Dellicker also plans on adding three new employees in 2013.
What was the inspiration behind Dellicker Strategies?
I believe in the power of technology to improve people’s lives. I thought I could help schools get better technology while saving them money in the process. From a personal perspective, after 10 years of working for other people, I gained enough confidence to try working for myself.
What was the biggest challenge in getting Dellicker Strategies off the ground?
Cash flow. Susan and I took out a home equity loan to pay all of our personal and business expenses during the first six months of operations. We agreed that if we exhausted our loan we would cut our losses and I would find a job without going any further in debt. Fortunately, we earned some key contracts with prompt-paying customers and the revenues eventually progressed from a trickle to a steady flow.
That was a scary time for Susan and me because we had three preschool children at home and a new mortgage. I was very tempted to try to start the business on the side while keeping my full-time job to pay the bills. I’m glad I didn’t because I think I would have failed. It took all the energy I had to get established. Sometimes, you just have to jump in with both feet.
What resources did you take advantage of to grow Dellicker Strategies?
My local bank was instrumental. Last year, we reinvested profits in the company to grow a new line of business, so cash flow was very tight. We got approved for a receivables loan from New Tripoli National Bank which gave us a cushion and helped us to grow. I could not have hired my newest employee without that line of credit.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome, personally or professionally?
Balancing the business with other more important life priorities. Owning and operating a business can consume all of a person’s time and resources if he or she is not careful. My family is most important and I’ve learned to be more disciplined about keeping work and home life separate.
I also serve part-time as an officer in the Air National Guard and I’ve had to deploy twice since 2005 to fight wars overseas. Obviously, the military commitment has added to the stress of owning the business and makes additional demands on my time. Periodically, I still struggle with a high workload, but I’ve learned to delegate more to my team and better protect my personal time. I unplug on vacation, protect my Sundays off and stay very involved with my kids’ activities- I’m the head wrestling and baseball coach! My business is important, but it doesn’t define who I am.
Talk about the moment where you knew you made the right decision in starting this company?
When we paid off the home equity loan that we used to start the business.
How can we stimulate small business to be an engine for job creation?
Advocate to simplify regulatory and tax compliance. It’s not uncommon for me to spend $100 to pay a $10 tax. Healthcare, workers compensation and unemployment insurance are also a mess. In Pennsylvania, tax compliance costs are worse than tax rates.
What key partnerships in your region or state have helped Dellicker Strategies grow?
I am a member of the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), and Kevin Shivers as the Pa. Executive Director does a great job keeping me in the loop on statewide initiatives. I also serve on the Public Policy Committee of the Lehigh Valley Chamber, where Michelle Young is an outstanding advocate for the small business community. I also use informal networks on a regular basis and there are plenty of entrepreneurs in the Lehigh Valley willing to provide advice.
Where does your region need to improve in terms of support for entrepreneurs?
In my opinion, Allentown city government is taking an increasingly confrontational approach to its surrounding suburban municipalities, from its handling of the hockey arena financing to its current proposal to sell the water company. In addition, the school system needs to improve if Allentown expects to attract new entrepreneurs to the city.
What’s the big differentiator for Dellicker Strategies?
We get results. That is our company motto and sums up our approach. When things don’t go according to plan or unforeseen obstacles derail our progress, Dellicker Strategies consultants find another way to get the job done. We are creative. We think big. We are persistent when others give up.
What’s next for Dellicker Strategies?
We believe that emerging models of blended learning can finally fulfill the promise of using technology to facilitate student-centric education. For a century, schools have been delivering traditional instruction in a teacher-centric model, with an instructor in front of the room delivering the curriculum.
But in the past decade, new classroom technologies and digital learning applications have allowed students to have more control over the time, place and methods of instruction. Today, blended learning has matured to the point that it can be implemented in mainstream classrooms to customize the educational experience for individual students, helping them learn better and faster.
Dellicker Strategies is providing new tools and techniques that help teachers spend more quality time with students in small groups. We also show teachers how to make better use of data for differentiated instruction and how to present the same curriculum in different ways to accommodate different learning preferences.
The end result is a more personalized educational environment for students that keeps them engaged and motivated to learn. Essentially, we offer a new system for cost-effective differentiated instruction. Since that is something that every school needs, we think we have plenty of room to grow.
— by Joe Petrucci
1647 Ashley Court

Kutztown , PA 19530

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