There's more to being a business manager than paying bills and preparing payroll. A business manager is an essential staff member for the following reasons. According to ChatGPT, business managers are typically in charge of the day-to-day operations of the school, including managing employees, overseeing finances, making strategic decisions, and ensuring that the school is running efficiently and effectively. A business manager is a professional who focuses on the many responsibilities and duties that come with her job. Now, I can already hear some of you owners or heads of small schools thinking that all you need is a part-time bookkeeper. You hired credentialed, experienced teachers, to teach in your school, right? It would help if you did the same thing for the business side of your operation.
I asked ChatGPT why a small private school needed a business manager. Here's what ChatGPT said:
Financial Management: A business manager can help a small private school to manage their finances more efficiently. They can help to create and manage budgets, track expenses, and ensure that the school is using its resources in the most effective way possible.
Strategic Planning: A business manager can also help a small private school to develop a long-term strategic plan. This can include identifying new revenue streams, developing marketing strategies to attract new students, and finding ways to improve the school's overall financial performance.
Administrative Support: A business manager can provide administrative support to the school's leadership team, allowing them to focus on their core responsibilities. This can include managing payroll, overseeing the school's human resources function, and ensuring that the school complies with all relevant regulations and laws.
Risk Management: A business manager can help a small private school to identify and manage risks. This can include creating policies and procedures to manage financial risks, ensuring that the school has adequate insurance coverage, and developing emergency plans to respond to crises.
Resource Optimization: A business manager can help a small private school to optimize its resources. This can include identifying opportunities to reduce costs, negotiating better deals with suppliers, and finding ways to generate new revenue streams. By doing so, the school can operate more efficiently and effectively, ensuring that it can provide the best possible education to its students.
As you can see, there's a whole lot more to being a business manager than paying bills. I see your business manager as insurance against all the unexpected things that can go wrong. Of course, managing the cash flow from tuition and fee income is an essential part of the job; but so is making sure your institution complies with the myriad of local, state, and federal laws and regulations that apply to a private school.
Current and prospective parents know when your school's finances and daily operations are well-managed. It's a major selling point for your school, a selling point that gets talked about more than you might think. You know the way gossip works. "We're thinking about sending Sally to Pleasant Times Day School. It seems like a nice-enough school. Oh, it is! But it's a shame they are having such a terrible time with their facilities. A tree fell on the lower school building, and they had no insurance." That kind of negative talk might convince prospective parents to look at other schools besides yours.
Delegate and Supervise
Hiring a professional business manager doesn't mean you won't know what's happening. Require regular updates about finances, maintenance, and state and federal returns. Assign tasks. Expect results. When and if those results don't occur, find out why. You will use the same approach when you meet your teachers to review their lesson plans for the coming week. You make sure to leave the teaching supervised. The same thing applies to the operations side of your school. Someone else is doing most of the work under your supervision.
Require membership in the National Business Officers Association. Here's who they are:
The National Business Officers Association (NBOA) is the only national nonprofit membership association focused exclusively on supporting independent school business officers and business operations staff while fostering financial and operational excellence among independent PK-12 schools.
Membership for your business manager allows your school to tap into a wide range of resources for independent K-12 schools like yours. In addition, it's reassuring for you and your business manager to know that other schools have faced the same issues and challenges you may face in the future. There's no need to reinvent the wheel. You have the NBOA to help deal with the situation.
This video offers a look at the NBOA and what it does.
A business manager who knows her head of school and board of trustees support her implementation of their policies and decisions can act quickly to deal with most situations that arise. In addition, your business manager can be a valuable advocate for your plans and projects when they are discussed at board meetings.
NBOA is committed to understanding your challenges and providing you with accessible, affordable, top-quality resources to strengthen every aspect of your school's business operations. Join this vibrant community of peers to discuss common challenges, exchange ideas, leverage valuable research and tools, and identify effective and sustainable solutions for your school.
The Hiring Process
Your specific needs will determine the kind of credentials that your business manager should have. The NBOA can offer guidance. Hiring somebody who can grow with your organization is always a good idea. Advertise the available position on your website. Publish it on your LinkedIn page, and on job sites such as Indeed.com and Monster.com. Ask a trustee who is a business person to help you interview candidates.
This video offers an overview of the hiring process.
As I noted at the beginning of this article, a professional business manager will do so much more for you and your school than handle finances. Having a business manager instead of a bookkeeper will add the depth, experience and wisdom you need as you grow your school.
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