Interview with Mr. Donald Puls, CEO of Gradelink



Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 5, 2021

The popularity of remote learning is increasing each day especially given our busy lives and the looming pandemic. Though many players and institutions have entered this emerging market, most remote learning practices are made only for virtual classes. Thus schools, colleges, and other educational institutions can get partial assistance when it comes to such software.

Thankfully, today there are many innovative solutions that help take the schooling experience online and provide a detailed analysis of student performance, attendance and behavior. They also take care of school announcements, staff training, documentation, gradation, and much more. Gradelink is one of the biggest names in student integration software which helps bring students, teachers, and parents under a simple and unified platform.

Gradelink helps thousands of schools digitize their schooling process and manage everything from discipline to finances. We are fortunate to have interviewed Mr. Donald Puls, the CEO of Gradelink, and know about his mission, journey, and vision for the future.

In Conversation with Mr. Donald Puls, CEO of Gradelink

Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

Firstly, a warm welcome from SoftwareSuggest Mr. Donald Puls. Our readers are keen to know what prompted you to start Gradelink? Tell us about your journey so far.

Gradelink was born out of a desire to follow God’s leading. One of the founders struggled academically as a young student because he didn’t put in much effort. When his family relocated, they enrolled him in St. John’s Lutheran School, where his teacher taught him to do his best.

His grades and confidence improved rapidly as he steadily worked towards becoming an A student. He applied that same work ethic to all areas of his life and fostered a desire to know and follow God. He later graduated from Concordia University and took a job at a well-known tech company.

When he was in his thirties, he wanted to develop a completely cloud-based school database. At about this time, he ran into an old college roommate who had become a Lutheran school principal. This long-time friend’s school ended up being the very first one to use Gradelink as an online grade and communication tool – and they LOVED it. The word about the new system spread quickly in the private school community.

Soon the entrepreneur had to decide whether to go back to working for other tech companies with all the benefits or jump into Gradelink with both feet. Over time, God has opened all the right doors for Gradelink to successfully partner with thousands of private and public education heroes who inspire students to do their best.

What prompted your venture into the SaaS space?

Obviously, the best solution for schools was to go with an online product because it doesn’t require purchasing additional equipment. Plus, it makes it easier for teachers and administrators to collaborate and gives them the flexibility to work from any location.

What separates Gradelink from your competitors?

Gradelink is a great value for schools. It provides them with the user-friendly tools they need to save time, improve enrollment and fulfill their mission. Because these tools are seamlessly integrated, they save money with one consolidated system instead of paying for multiple products that may or may not be compatible with each other.

The ability to work remotely has been vital since the pandemic began, which gave Gradelink users another clear advantage. Since it’s entirely cloud-based, all they need is a computer with internet access. There’s no need for additional software or hardware.

But what really sets Gradelink apart is our outstanding customer support team — the feedback from our clients is overwhelmingly positive. People truly appreciate how helpful our support team is whenever they need it. It’s available to all our customers at no additional cost in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

How has Covid-19 impacted your business, and what is your strategy moving forward in the new normal?

When we were required to shut down our office, we were all able to work from our homes, so our operations continued uninterrupted. That allowed us to help our schools transition to distance and hybrid learning to take care of their students.

Gradelink has expanded rapidly due to Covid-19, as many schools were looking for an online solution to facilitate their hybrid and remote learning efforts. Gradelink is a comprehensive student information (SIS), enrollment, and tuition management system that integrates with learning management systems (LMS), so schools have relied on it heavily this past year for everything from sending text messages and emails, online admissions, billing, and e-learning.

Moving forward, it is clear schools are relying on top-shelf customer care. Gradelink provides dedicated account representatives for each school who act as the single point of contact. We found our customers enjoy getting to know their point of contact, and it improves efficiency for the school immensely. This is the opposite of a ticketing system in which a random representative may take several hours or even days to respond to a customer’s needs.

Would you like to share some interesting stats/ numbers for our readers — pre-pandemic versus current times?

The business climate over the last year has been unpredictable, to say the least. Sadly, many private schools closed permanently; however, many others have seen a healthy increase in enrollment as families have sought alternatives to how public schools have handled instruction during the pandemic.

How do you think has the SaaS industry evolved in the past few years?

The pandemic only accelerated the trend of businesses moving operations online. People expect to be able to do more and more things electronically, and businesses have to adapt if they are going to compete.

What updates and advancements are being made at Gradelink to help your clients navigate in the new normal?

As schools were forced to adapt to distance learning, we showed them ways to use the tools already in Gradelink to bolster their efforts. We also showed them how to integrate other tools, like Google Classroom. We did this through webinars, emails, our website, social media, and customer support.

Things are still in flux as some schools have been back on campus for months while others are just now returning. Either way, most schools have at least some students learning remotely.

In addition, schools are relying on integrations now more than ever which is why Gradelink has dedicated resources to adding more partners to the integration library at Gradelink truly is a one-stop-shop for school management as a result.

What is your vision and plan for taking Gradelink to greater heights in the next 5 years?

Because we are in regular communication with our clients, we are able to understand what their needs and wants are. We use that input to determine what updates and new features to develop next. Our focus remains on helping educators work more efficiently.

What motivates and strengthens you to keep up with the competition?

That’s simple – our schools! All the positive feedback we get from them makes the hard work worthwhile. We know schools have many options for school management software, so we continue to earn their business by developing the best user experience possible.

Can you please share some interesting learnings that you have gained from your journey so far.

To succeed, businesses really have to take care of their employees to take care of the customers and listen to their needs.

What advice do you have for the young entrepreneurs starting out in the SaaS space?

Think about your own experiences with the services you’ve used. What worked and what didn’t? Apply those lessons to your own work.

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