Aya Academy of Excellence

Grand Closing: If Schools Were Run Like Businesses

I failed.  I failed to turn my six figure investment in a start-up day spa from conceptualization into a profit churning machine.   Before opening, I visited existing spas, tried out their services, picked the brains of their techinicians while soaking up their lavish services.   I thought upon opening I was armed with information to succeed but I failed.   It was the BEST experience of my life.  I should have visited businesses announcing ‘Grand Closing’ sales.  I should have spent days upon days roaming through their aisles examining their products and chatting with their workers.   I was analyzing the wrong data. 

What schools and the people who pull the strings in related sectors including government fail to realize is that copying the success of someone pales in comparison to having a heart-to-heart with a near do well.  How else do you get to know the pitfalls?  And if schools did not have a seemingly bottomless purse and faced the ignomy of shuttering its doors, perhaps they would rechart their course and move from failure to success. 

Although the trend to emulate the corporate world has continued in education, schools need to tap into the lessons of small mom and pop start-ups that have to stay on their toes to reach their bottom line.

Here are a few transferable lessons schools can take from small business.

1. Be Careful of Undercapitalization – For me, my capital issue was cash.  For schools, we are talking about human capital.  Schools are filling classrooms with people who are underqualified.  Hence the advent of scripted lesson plans and low certification requirements.  Schools must be mindful that they are to invest in their people.  And once that comepetent worker is on board, to support that teacher’s journey to excellence, give them time to caft quality lessons and training to develop new competencies and hone existing skills.  A NFL owner’s most crucial decision isn’t the team’s logo or new addition to the refreshment stand.  A NFL owner hellbent on making it to the Superbowl hires the best coach and the most stellar players with that mission in mind.  A quality worker is self-motivated, savvy and knowledgable and worth their weight in gold.  It’s time to make it HARDER to become a teacher NOT EASIER.  Warm bodies at a desk will not propel our education system back to the top.

2.  Know Your Clientele –  When I opened my business I knew exactly the customer I was aiming for, the problem was that this client wasn’t walking in the door.  Too many educators are lamenting over how kids used to be.  If the kids are not conforming to teaching as it was years ago, it’s time to innovate and create environments to respond to how children are today.  Great businesses that survive and thrive don’t keep dusty merchandise on their shelves – textbooks, antiquated POS checkout systems – assessments, or play last year’s MUZAC – technology.  Instead they learn to capitalize on new ways to capture their clients – online learning and provide retraining of their staff to increase sales – professional development.

3. Under New Management – You’ve seen the sign.  Someone bought out Vinny’s Pizzeria.  You haven’t been there in a while but you hope that the garlic knots are as good.  Better yet, Vinny’s deep dish needed work and you hope the new owners have a better recipe.  Vinny, an amenable guy most days, was just too bullheaded to revamp the menu to fix the areas that were weak.  A prevailing failure existing in schools today is the low attrition rate of administrators with murky track records.  Schools that want to turn around schools need to remember that a basic rule of cleaning is that you must start from the top.  Who vacuums before you dust?  And like Vinny’s, sometimes schools must recognize that management personnel are out of their depth and incapable of correcting weak areas to turn around failing schools. 

4. Now Opened Later – Schools must increase their academic time during the year by extending their school calendars and the school day by ensuring students have time on task.  I was a bank teller in college.  The hours worked well with my heavy courseload.  I remembered when the industry changed from traditional ‘banking’ hours and I began picking up hours working the night shift until eight in the evening and on weekends.  This change in operating hours was in response to a changing workforce who needed the convenience of accessibility.  This is true for the children we are servicing too.  In my neighborhood, parents are paying big bucks to ‘second language schools’ offering tutoring and SAT prep on weekends.  Those children are excelling and leaving their counterparts in the dust.  Accessibility of extended hours is needed in schools.

It is my hope that administrators and teachers will take day-long visits to failing schools to observe the multitude of poor practices to avoid them at all costs.  Our kids cannot pay the price of us conducting business as usual.


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