Now that the education market has started to open up, are you thinking of starting a private school?
It goes without saying that it’s a challenging process.
One of the blunders that occurs time-and-again in the endeavour to do so is inadequate planning: you need a detailed strategic business plan from pre-formation to operation over a five to seven year timeline to adequately determine whether the school is viable in that particular location or market based on its programme and methods and financial targets. Crucially, you also need to work out whether you will have adequate capital to cover the initial cash-flow shortfall in the first two to three years of operation until you reach a break-even point.
Experience suggests that this break-even point won’t occur for at least two to three years, even if things well; and the school should be able to pay down any debts within eight to ten years.
Schools don't break even right away.
Without a strategic financial plan and carefully-managed budget, you will end up in a cash crisis, and in most cases, start cutting back on programme resources and staffing and/or have to use advanced payments to cover the current year's shortfall. A slippery slope which usually leads to school closure and a swift end to your dreams.
Time invested in careful planning, and planning for contingencies, is golden time.
The next big question is ‘Who is going to ensure that you achieve your strategic priorities?’ Who will be your leading decision-maker? Is it the accounting department, the Head of the School, or the Board? Financial accountability is important, but who ultimately makes the decision on the bottom line? And what exactly is your bottom line and how do you measure it?
No successful school (be it for-profit or non-profit, new or established) can do without strategic planning and a capable and smart decision-maker. Don’t even start dreaming until you have these in place.