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THE ENVIRONMENT – School Business Success Equation – Parameter 2

The environment plays a key role in the success equation of any school. As a matter of fact, it can mean the difference between success and struggling. You may not be able to move your school away from the environment it is now, considering the level of investment,  but the good thing is: people constitute the environment and as such,  you can turn the odds of the environment to work in your favour.  I know you’re curious to know how to do that.  I’m glad you’re here.

To really get the best from this topic and answer all the questions already popping up in your mind concerning the school’s environment,  I’m going to be showing you:

1. What to look for in an environment before starting a new school or annex

2. How to handle sudden competition favourably in your environment

3. What to do when your environment limits your school’s worth

4. Why Big schools fold up in the environment and how to avoid that trap.

1. What to look for in an environment before starting a new school or annex

If your’e just starting out your school for instance, or floating a new annex, you’re supposed to invest in a location where you know you’d be king in the jungle. Not somewhere you’d find it difficult to cope. You don’t have to float the new annex in the same local government with the mother school.

Now,  beforedeciding to situate your school in any environment,  you need to answer the following questions and be honest with your research.

People who pay little or no attention to research will always arrive at the future when other have left. That is if they ever arrive.  So don’t be too excited to make your findings. Don’t ignore this advice

You’re starting a school business because you are sure parents will pay for your services, so don’t be too excited to find out who these people are and what they really want.

Remember that business and marketing is not primarily about the product or service. It’s about connecting on an emotional level with the customers for whom the product/service is meant. Sales will then happen effortlessly.

Before starting that new school or annex, do the following.  Even if you’ve run your school for years,  you should carefully re-evaluate these points and adjust accordingly

1. Decide for yourself the caliber of parents you want to have.

It’s not wrong to target parents with certain level of income.

2. Find out what these caliber of people are interested in,

3. find out what they may already be getting in the schools they are presently,

4. invest moderately to match or surpass that experience.

5. Find out their economic stands,

6. the range of income they earn and the liabilities common to them e.g exortic cars, houses, businesses, etc.

7. Identify your “worthy” competitors in the vicinity.

8. Investigate into what the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of these competitors are

(By the way, what is USP?)

9. And set your own Unique Selling Proposition distinct from theirs

Knowing all these will tell you if you should still go ahead in that environment,  with the amount of resources you have, or maybe you should just look for another environment or you wait for one more session before launching out. Be careful not to subject yourself to business bondage due to mistakes you could have avoided.

2. Now,  I know majority already have their schools running and this second point is what you’re waiting for.

How to handle competition favourably in your environment?

If you already have a school, (which is the case for many of us here) and investors with bigger pockets suddenly show up in the area, then you should do either of two things:

1. You may simply choose not to compete with them at all, OR

2. if you have the resources, you step up your investment and match their competition facility for facility, strategy for strategy.

The first option is my advice.

But even where you choose not to compete with them, you need to set up your school unique enough to attract parents who are not looking for something bigger than what you offer, but are okay with something of your size.

The problem here is, there are going to be a few other schools (if not many) of your size and level, so you need to package and present something absolutely unique about your level.

It is at this point that you need emergency innovations like I taught about in part one of this series.

INNOVATION IS STILL THE KEY WORD HERE

But wait a minute, here’s my definition of innovation:

Innovation is looking for solutions when problems are still manageable.

The point is.  No school suddenly appears in an environment. There was a build up to it.  You probably knew they were going to start.  That’s when to act and pull up something that will keep you in the game and help you at least retain your own parents who may want to be enticed.

And even if you couldn’t do anything and now the competition is here.  The same solution still applies. Focused and consistent improvement is what keeps a school in the market. The moment you quit adding new things and refining existing methods every term, you stand the risk of gradually being phased out of business

3. What Do you do when your environment limits your school’s worth?

Now you have this lovely school you have taken the pains to build over the years.  You’ve made sure you built the school to continuously match your vision and taste.  The problem now is that you cannot possibly charge the real worth of what you have on ground in terms of facilities and quality.  You can beat your chest and say you are the best in this or best in that, in that environment.  But this hasn’t translated into income,  because contrary to what you envisioned,  the environment hasnt grown at the same pace your school grew in over time.

Here’s what you need to do.  People constitute the environment and if you’ve been able to do business in that environment up till now with some level of success,  then it means you can walk your way around the limitation.  You probably now have a worth (school fee) that only few people in the environment can afford. It looks like a problem,  but it’s a good problem.

Here’s what you should do. Identify the few parents in your school and in the environment who value what you have and are ready to pay for it. Bond with them and connect with thier friends – people of their type through them. Don’t in any way lower your standard or your value to that level where the environment is forcing you to. Try to minimize your overhead by reducing redaundancy in your team. Just hang in there, your people will find you out, they could even move into that environment because of you

If the type of parents you want live far away. You may consider starting boarding services because of them.

4. Why Big schools fold up in the environment and how to avoid that trap.

There are several reasons why schools fold up, especially those schools that we’re once in good business. AS far far as the Environment is concerned, top on the list of reasons is that

1. The school owner gets tired of the school.

If you get tired of running your school,  maybe due to successive sessions of low patronage and reducing population, then there’s almost no hope getting it back.  Even if you hire consultants and attend every training available.  When the school owner gets tired of her school, for whatever reason,  believe me the best thing to do is shut it down, because no will be able to revive it without your full cooperation.

So if you’re here and you’re thinking ‘I’m tired of this school’,  please change that thinking because that’s when you’ll have the enthusiasm to even implement the strategies I’ve been teaching so far.

2. Second reason why big schools fold up is because the school owners retire. Now there’s a big difference between been tired and retiring.  Of course you should never be tired of your school,  but at the same time you should not retire. To retire is to stop thinking creatively about the school.  You may not be actively involved at all in the running of the school,  but your biggest taste is to think creatively and chart new strategies for the school. No matter what environment you find yourself, there must always be that creative force that keeps charting new directions for the school. You may leave the activities in the hands of your handlers. You can outsource every other task,  but you cannot outsource thinking.  John Maxwell once said “Anyone can stir the ship, but only the leader charts the course”.  If you stop thinking creatively about the school,  it means you getting ready to stop running it.

3. The third reason why big schools fold up is that they surround themselves with too many parents who cannot pay and too many staff who do not care about the school. When  you notice a staff does not care about your school,  but only cares about what to get,  please, place them on the exit list and release them as quickly as possible.  If you delay,  they become toxic on your system, they poison others and poison your environment with this attitude and you gradually lose your school.

Likewise, just as you hunt for new parents,  some parents should also be on your exit list.  Make it difficult for unrepentant debtors to remain in your school beyond one session. If you ever let debtors increase beyond neccesary, then your school is tilting towards closing shop because you will find it hard to fulfil your obligations and lose the confidence of willing parents.

4. For this class here is my the last reason why big schools fold up. As you grow older, both in age and entrepreneurial experience, if care is not taken, you naturally adjust out of tune with new realities both of the school business and of business generally. When your own biological children have are through with schooling ad you’ve become a grand mother or grand father, you need to also strategically ease out yourself from the running of the school and pass the baton of active management to the new generation with fresh blood. If you stay too long at this level, however hard you may find it difficult to keep tabs with modern technological trends which actually determine the continued relevance of the business to a very large extent. Schools that fail to manage this transition usually find it difficult moving on.

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