How to Hold It Together as a School Owner When Everything Revolves Around You?Oct 27, 2018
The last four months have been a crazy ride, but in the end, I pulled it off with success and couldn’t be happier! I recruited brand new staff and moved into a new building while increasing the number of our students by 40%.
Back in June, after having agreed with one of my teachers to make our partnership official, i.e. forming a corporation to take the language school to the next level, and finally sharing responsibility, a weight went from my shoulders.
However, I, unfortunately, found out a few days later that my partner’s boyfriend had been diagnosed with cancer and they both had to move back to the UK urgently for the treatment, not knowing whether they would ever be back in Spain.
I had the rug pulled from under my feet. That same month my other teacher decided to leave a month early as she was preparing for the birth of her first baby. I was alone, yet acknowledging that both of my teachers made the best decision.
Not long before all this happened though, I had promised all clients that by September we would have moved to a bigger place with more space. I promised this without knowing how and where I was just trusting fate and my instincts.
So, within a period of 3 months, everything completely changed. Nobody from the old team was available, and our old place did not have enough space for us anymore. The only thing that remained the same was our brand and everything associated with it: the methodology, the way we communicate with our students, our objectives, and tools we use to accomplish them.
We managed to come back in September, increasing the number of our students by 40%, not losing even one of them due to the changes, and have an even stronger brand.
In this post, I will share with you ten elements that ensured the continuity of my business in these difficult times. And while some changes are predictable, there is always a possibility that something unexpected comes, so I recommend you keep as many of these ten points well under control as possible.
As the owner and leader of my school, continuous improvement is the flagship attribute of my business. Therefore, I am constantly trying to ensure that each team member does value-added work and we do not lose time on tasks that could be automated. Our reservation system and our invoicing and payment processes are fully automated. There is no printed paperwork or cash present in our processes.
- STABLE BRAND
My brand, Esztertainment is less than 5 years old, yet it is well known in our local community and has numerous differentiators from the competition. I make it very clear what it is we do and what we don’t and I am very specific about my target client.
Families that learn with us are assured that they will receive the same high-quality service from any member of our team, should they be old or young, new with us or more experienced, native English speakers or speakers of English as a second language.
Although both our students and I wholeheartedly miss our old teachers, I was able to maintain the strength of the brand as it is not depending on team members but on the idea of English Learning Lifestyle with Esztertainment.
- METICULOUS HIRING PROCESS
When it turned out that I need a new team, I did not panic. I still took time to go with a very detailed and specific hiring process and was not afraid to say no to those who didn’t meet my criteria, even when I was in a hurry.
I found the right people.
Not only are they qualified for the job, but they share my enthusiasm about the values we transmit. They are all very different personalities that blend together well.
- SPOT ON ORIENTATION OF NEW TEAM
I had two weeks to prepare my team for the start.
We used those two weeks not only for them to get to know the brand, but for us to get more familiar with each other and have fun together.
As a result, on the 3rd week, when teaching started, we worked like a team that had been working together for years.
To achieve this, it was vital that I had meticulously documented our “academic personality” this summer, with the help of a great focus group.
When it comes to difficult times, sharing it with your clients can actually get them on your side.
You might not imagine the support you can get if you are honest with them.
Being honest with the families about the situation resulted in numerous offers of help, countless good wishes to our old team members and people trying to help us find a new place in the neighbourhood.
It really got the community moving. Being honest about the situation with my new hires got them on my side and integrated them much faster.
- EARLY REGISTRATION
Though I hadn’t known all this would come, I did ensure 80% of old students already registered for the new school year by June. That meant that I really only had to put efforts into managing new contacts, rather than trying to catch up with all the old ones during the months of August and September.
We opened registration as early as April and many students loved it.
- WORD OF MOUTH
More than ever, we needed word of mouth to spread.
People who came through recommendation of others needed less explanation about all our teachers having left and us changing place.
They trusted us because their friends trust us. In fact, still, more than 95% of all our students find us through a recommendation from their friends.
- CONTINUOUS LIST BUILDING AND COMMUNICATION
Even when closed for the summer we kept in touch with students on our email lists with periodic updates and kept on adding new people through friends and funnels through our website.
This way those who couldn’t contact us as we were closed for the summer, could still hear from us via e-mail and many of them signed up when we came back.
- MAINTAINING VARIOUS CHANNELS OF INFORMATION
Digital noise these days is huge. You must be heard through it. One channel to reach your clients is not enough. Our most active channels are email and Instagram, followed by Google Business.
All backed up by a clear and very informative website.
By the time people walk into our academy, they have usually visited some of those. Therefore they come in almost like old friends, and sometimes their only question is where to sign.
- OPEN TO CRITICISM. TURNING COMPLAINTS INTO LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
It would be a lie to say everything went amazingly smoothly. Of course, we have had difficult moments, both with old and new students.
What helps us through all of them is being open about our flaws if the error was on our side.
We share the correction process directly with the affected family and shortly after the issue is resolved we check their satisfaction again, to make sure we have strengthened their trust in us.
+1 “BE UNFUCKWITHABLE”
I need to add this final point. In addition to the above, I had to pick a new place, negotiate a contract, move from the old place, paint, design and get the new place ready within one month.
If I hadn’t read The Code of The Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani earlier this year, I think all these past months would have cost me a lot more pain and suffering. I can’t express how grateful I am to Vishen and recommend this book to you from the heart.
PS: I feel each point in this post is worth a whole new post, therefore if you have questions about any of them I invite you to reach out.
Thank you for your time!
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