School Start up:
– Legacy Building
“It might be the toughest thing you have ever done in your career.”
It may seem like a school start up is the most exciting thing that you could possibly do in your professional lifetime. We (GSE) love it but maybe it is helpful to roll out some facts or a blueprint that might help you prepare for this very important professional challenge.
Be Good at Everything Required for a School Start Up
Of course no one can be good at everything but you need to be well rounded and and have the capacity to understand everything from the education side to the business side. From the early years to the upper secondary. Networking to crisis management. It is very likely you will be called upon to lead many things in new schools.
To generalise, the greatest weaknesses we often see in traditional educational leaders looking to do start ups is:
- Financial and business management (Educators just aren’t trained in these fields)
- Marketing (It is a unique skill set that educators contribute well to but generally don’t lead well)
- Ability to navigate the cultural nuances of local owners, partners and community (Even extensive overseas experience does not always ensure good skills in this area)
Don’t Be Pretentious
You will have many chances to wear your power outfit and stand on stage, make inspiring presentations as well as represent the glamorous and prestigious parts of this role but not without doing some of the other things. Emptying boxes, stacking shelves, cleaning toilets, solving personal crises with new staff, making very tough decisions are all essential skills. To be honest when a potential candidate asks me questions about their personal assistant, car and driver, premium accomodation and their office, whether they may or may not exist, it is a red flag for me about their ability to do a start up. It is easy to say that you are down to earth and open to doing all that it takes, but you really will need to. You will begin with a small staff and they need your knowledge, expertise and physical help.
A School Start Up is Tough on Founding Staff
There is not a tougher job in education than being a teacher during a start up. That is where your energy and priorities need to lean. They are the key to your success and on many occasions teachers are broken in the earliest years of a school start up if not prepared and well supported. In the selection process you will most likely get a number of standard responses such as “excited to be part of something new” and “I am ready for the challenge to create something from scratch” but in truth you need to remember some of the principles of growth mindset and identify teachers who have the ability to stay motivated, determined, courageous and to genuinely embrace less than perfect conditions. There is no history in a new school, sometimes an undefined curriculum and everything will initially be a work in progress. Remove as many obstacles for teachers as you can so that they can get with their important job at hand.
You are it! You don’t have a district board or superintendent to support you on the daily challenges or the crises that might come up. You need to have a wealth of experience or broad expertise including the resilience and fortitude that is required to keep things steady. GSE provides such support with a strong team of leadership behind the scenes but many start up leaders are often “thrown to the wolves” not realising how challenging it is to do things on your own.
No start up in the world begins with a budget that delivers everything everyone needs. It is a matter of priorities and careful management. It is really a case of priorities. What is most important and when? Create a very clear budget and plan ahead, Make sure that you are considering the time it might take to purchase and procure equipment and resources. Negotiate good pricing and be careful about the sales pitch that can sometimes trip you up. You do need to justify everything. Do that well.
Be an Education Leader – a Leader who Educates
In many cases you will be leading a project with and for an investor who has less understanding about education. It is important that you patiently and diligently help them understand how schools work. What is important to teachers? Why? What is important to parents? Why are these resources important? What is this facility used for? This relationship with the business side is invaluable to you and by investing time to build shared understanding you will reap the rewards later.
The People Business of a School Start Up
In education we say “teachers are the most important people in the school.” With a business hat on you might say “human resources are the most valuable asset to the organisation.” It means the same thing but people will hear it differently. Business people outside education, may not realise how valuable staff morale, staff relationships and other matters are to the school. It is essential that you prioritise staff but also help all stakeholders understand the value in this. We find that for some industries they are surprised and confused how much priority we place on managing staff satisfaction and morale. Keep doing it but also explain it well.
Understand the Product/Customer Mindset
Let go of your precious values that education is special and does not mix with terms like market, industry, client, product, for-profit and other terms like this. You are pioneering the greatest and most exciting field on this human earth. Education and children are special and unique but your school will not be successful if you cannot embrace, understand and be successful at BOTH the education side AND the business side. “Without mission there is no money and without money there is no mission”. Like the air that we breath the money side of schools is essential and invaluable. Enrolments employ you. Revenue sustains you. Learn quickly these essential parts of a school start up.
Why GSE love this space – The School Start Up
GSE was first launched in 2010, in response to investors and existing school operators looking for the expertise they needed for school start ups. They needed a leadership team that understood both the education and the business side of school start ups.
GSE is described by many as “the bridge.”
Investors often want famous school brands but those brands have most often never operated in unique overseas locations. It is not the same. Just as operating a restaurant for a niche clientele in one country is not the same as doing so for a different consumer and palette in another. Pizza is most often not the same in China and Chinese food is rarely the same in the USA. Often the recipe is changed for different tastes. There is a reason why many school brands are nervous, or fail, without support outside their original location. Schools are not like McDonalds. Even Mc Donalds change for different regions. GSE work with famous and well regarded school brands.
Some investors want to create and build their own brand and legacy. They have a mission and money. They want to build a legacy. How best to achieve both in an authentic way? Best practice is not easy to find when you are trying to create something unique, that is your own, but investors need to work successfully with leaders they can trust. We built a strong team and broad skills set to do that.
GSE = Down to earth, trustworthy, education experts who can not only speak to all topics but deliver on them in all regios of the world.
If you want to learn more about the steps required to set up a school or an international school franchise check out some of our other articles:
GSE set up schools in all areas of the world
CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for edu-cation institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these disciplines.
Global Services in Education set up and operate schools in all parts of the world. Governed by a philosophy of global citizenship, every member of the GSE team shares a passion to help shape international education and student achievement through inspiration and collaboration.
Our goal is to meet the highest objectives of every school, teacher, student and parent, with an unwavering dedication to quality education, shared ideals and intercultural perspectives.
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