VIKI KISH, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR
1999 was an interesting year for the Czech Republic and for global innovation. Napster and MSN messenger were launched. The most visited website was Yahoo! and most people who had email were sporting an AOL email account.
I had just left a business school where I was the head of International Programs – a department which was designed to bring in students from partner universities in the US and to provide 3-4 weeks’ of lectures on the business environment in Eastern Europe and the findings of our faculty.
I saw a year of students going through this program. They dealt with basic accommodation, basic rations and the occasional power outage with grace and aplomb. But they left the Czech Republic thinking it was an inferior country with inferior infrastructure and, by default, inferior people – and this inspired me to suggest a profound change to the way we worked as a department – and as a business school.
Pitching this idea to my management didn’t go down too well. I failed to make them see any business case for my idea and, and, after a heated exchange, I took my back-of-a-napkin business plan and left to start International Study Programs.
That failure to persuade my bosses of the value of my idea was the start of ISP and, nearly 20 years later, I can say that the gamble has paid off. The early years were not easy – I shared an office with my part-time saviour, Dana – funded by an early loan from the Bank of Mum and Dad.
A road trip to the US yielded 14 clients in the first 4 months. We had just one dial-up internet connection. At 4pm every day, we climbed under our desks and took turns in plugging the telephone line into the back of our computers to send out the day’s emails. Despite this, we kept to our promise of a 24 hour response time – a standard which still holds at ISP.The challenges of those early days helped to form a resilient culture with some founding philosophies which distinguish ISP still today.
- Every single person has good ideas.
- Fulfilment starts with an open mind – listen to everyone. Learn from everything.
- Keep growing or start dying.
- Never forget why you started – your purpose, your passion, your values will see you through.
The purpose of ISP is to help future leaders fulfil their potential and maximise their positive impact on their world and the people around them.
ISP AND TAP TAP
A global, socially-engaged company, ISP is deeply committed to improving the lives of all our stakeholders and those beyond the reach of our daily business practice. We seek organisations that mirror our core values of impact, effectiveness and transparency. For 2017 - 2019 we’re proud to support the incredible work of TAP TAP.