So I get up at seven am and into my first class for eight. I taught for 4 and a half hours (with a few small breaks in between) then had lunch. Had my mandatory afternoon nap (these are not an option here in the heart land of China) taught from two till four thirty, chatted with parents (PR work – stressful enough in English!) then an end of the day business meeting with H from five fifteen till six. Waited for T to finish class at six fifteen as I had some things to chat to him about too about the business. His hours are a bit sporadic at the moment and he actually seems to be doing more work out of the company than in the company.
By the time I got home it was approaching eight PM. I sent some emails and checked some stuff out – it’s not fast approaching 8pm and tomorrows going to be even busier – where does one find the time to blog in between actually running a business and being its main product?
We have a simple rule – one free 试听课 (trial class) for everyone then if they want to stay they can pay. This has been strictly adhered to for all students by all of us except by T. T has a friend whose not only so far avoided paying his children’s fees but doesn’t even bring his children to the school or pick them up! T has so far since we first opened been picking these two children up and taking them home. Seeing as T can fetch 100RMB for an hour of teaching we’ve started counting this 20 minutes absconding from work to take children home after class as a double loss – they’re getting free classes AND free lifts home – a service we don’t offer to ANYONE else.
H and I have been quite concerned about this for quite some time and eventually had to come down quite hard on T telling him that if the children’s fees weren’t received by the start of the second week we’d not allow them into class. T’s compromise was to pay the two children’s fees himself! Further to this one of the girls friends sat in on three of our classes before her mother declared she didn’t want her child to study at our school! So that’s a further loss!
The free lifts have proven to be quite a problem and today it came to a head when packed between a busy teaching schedule H rushed the two girls – not home – but to a supermarket because they decided they wanted to go shopping! Call me old fashioned but in this circumstance I’m quite Victorian and would not be listening to the whims of 11 year old girls. Pushed for time T left the girls at a bus stop because they said they could make their own way home…
Now the first H or I heard of this was at lunch over an hour later when T received an irate call from the girls mother demanding to know “我的女儿怎么还没回家？” (Why’s my girl not home yet?) and T then tells us “Well I left them at the bus stop…”
Luckily the girls got home without any trouble but the issue could have been much much bigger. Two missing school girls would be tragic for their families and would sound the death knell for our fledgling school. With a sufficient amount of pressure T has agreed to stop taking them home as this is not a responsibility we should be taking and the potential dangers (whose responsible if they’re injured or lost on his watch?) are too great! We’re a school, but our business is being a school – children’s safety is far far too important. We simply can’t run risks like that anymore.
“Regular exercise at the gym, three days a week… fitter, happier, more productive…”
I finally broke and signed up to the gym in the city centre near our school. Seeing as I’m waking at roughly 7am every morning and not normally getting home till about 7pm exercise has become something of an issue. If I don’t exercise I begin to feel quite tense which spills over into every aspect of my life – and my teaching suffers. And in this business teaching is more than teaching, it’s a multifaceted role of educating young minds, marketing and PR.
I’m not against gym’s I just always prefer to do exercise in my own way but by 7pm the last thing I really see myself doing is going for a run after a long slog of teaching. However I can wholeheartedly say that signing up for the gym has been one of the best personal investments I have made for our company thus far. And, of course, as an added bonus, I’m slowly learning a lot of Chinese I never thought I’d ever come into contact with (like tricep 三头肌). If I am not in top shape I cannot do my best for this company!
In short, if my classes are not both educational and fun, the children wont want to come back, their parents wont want to send them to our school and word will spread. Mother A will talk to mother B, who will talk to mother C. Parents are intimately connected through some unseen network. My work directly compliments that of H’s sales department. She pulls the children in and I make them want to stay. If I’m in a bad mood because I’ve been getting fat – well it’s just not worth talking about how bad it could be.
The weekend has landed!
I always knew setting up a company would be hard work but there’s a big difference between knowing something as an abstract concept hanging loosely in the future and living through it as a fact. It’s fun and very exciting. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of work. Summer camp started on the 8th of July and I’ve been working roughly 12 hours every day six days a week. The days have started to take shape and there is something of a routine beginning to emerge through the exciting motion that has been the last few weeks.
That said, everyday is still very different. My teaching schedule has become an anchor of repetition in an otherwise pretty exciting swirl of new events and challenges that throw themselves up on a daily basis. Leaking roofs, negotiations with the neighbors and warring business partners are all among the things that have jumped out at me in the last two weeks.
So I would have started this blog sooner but I’ve been a bit preoccupied, sorry. This week we got pretty close to the 40 student mark (if you include one on one classes we passed it). I’m rather satisfied with this small first step in the right direction. It’s a good sign – it means our marketing people (that’s H and her student employees) are doing their job in getting students and I’m doing mine in retaining them.
Getting student’s is a greasy pole when it comes to calculating whose responsible for making them come (and in some cases losing them). This question has been puzzling me quite a bit because H implemented an incentive system for our student employees – they get a modest 10% of any students tuition that they enroll. So for example if one of the student employees meets a family, talks to them, and wins them over with their beautiful sales pitch and lovely smile but for whatever reason the family decide not to enroll that day but come back in the future and give their cash to another employee, well that’s just ‘太糟糕了’ (too bad!) to quote T! Please give me any feedback or advice you can think of – because I do worry that if the staff feel like their hard work isn’t paying off – they wont work hard! The incentives, however, seem to be working and so far one of the employees has scooped an impressive 10 students worth of commission!
Right blogging is fun but I’m going to go and enjoy the rest of my weekend, Sunday is still young! and I’ve a good afternoon ahead of me to have fun!