Clear Admit Founder Flips To Other Side

Graham Richmond, co-founder of Clear Admit

Graham Richmond, co-founder of Clear Admit

After helping MBA applicants get into some of the world’s top business schools for more than a decade, Clear Admit co-founder Graham Richmond is now doing a complete flip: he has launched a consulting firm to help business schools with their efforts to recruit candidates.

Richmond, who founded Clear Admit with partner Eliot Ingram in late 2001, is calling his new business Southwark Consulting, named after a neighborhood in Philadelphia where Richmond once lived.

The 40-year-old entrepreneur helped to build Clear Admit into one of the leading MBA admissions consulting firms after a ten-month stint as an admissions counselor for the Wharton School, a job he took after earning his MBA from Wharton in 2001. He was also co-founder of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC). Richmond’s co-founder Ingram graduated from Wharton two years earlier in 1999.

Richmond announced his new plans today (June 19) at an afternoon meeting attended by business school admissions officers in Vancouver, British Columbia, where the Graduate Management Admissions Council is holding a major conference. He said he has about a handful of business schools who have expressed interest in hiring his firm, though he declined to name them.

Richmond, whose last day at Clear Admit was Friday, said the idea for the new business “has been in the works for awhile” and is a natural result of advice he has given admission directors from time to time. “It wasn’t so much that I was tired of it as much as I saw this opportunity,” he said in an interview. “You see so many little things that might rub a candidate the wrong way and the schools often don’t know.”

Southwark will be competing with several other players who consult with educational institutions over strategy issues, branding and positioning, and admissions policies, including Huron Consulting and several other solo firms. Southwark will offer consulting on a wide range of business school issues, from measuring a school’s brand perception in the marketplace to sharing best practices of leading admissions offices. The outfit’s website, for example, asks, “How does your admissions office run from an operations standpoint? Are files processed in a timely and organized fashion? Are you using the right tools to expedite the often cumbersome process of verifying test scores and other key application components? We can put these practices to work for you so that your team has more time to meet with and assess prospective students.”

Eliot Ingram, co-founder of Clear Admit

Eliot Ingram, co-founder of Clear Admit

The new company is an outgrowth of an early decision Richmond made to cultivate admissions officers at the world’s top business schools. “Over the years, I have tried to have great relationships with the schools,” he explained. “Some of our competitors asked me why bother schmoozing the schools. But I always thought that staying in touch with them was good for relationship building. They repeatedly have sought to pick my brain about the latest applicant pool, or about application volume, or how we have effectively used social media to generate an audience for Clear Admit. I would typically give them some free advice but over time it occurred to me that there might be a market for schools that want help on how to attract viable candidates and how to run an efficient application process.”

Richmond, who lives and works from Paris, France, said he will maintain his ownership stake in Clear Admit but will no longer have any operational role. Ingram, the firm’s co-founder who has been chief financial officer and chief operating officer, succeeds Richmond as CEO.

Richmond said he is not bringing anyone from the firm with him into his new venture. Instead, he said, he has “a couple of folks who will work with me as analysts, college grads with stats backgrounds.”

Clear Admit has five full-time MBA admissions consultants on its staff, including co-founder Ingram.

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About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.