After 3 years in the field of business planning and coaching the Greek ELT enterprise I found out that there are still areas that are open to relative interpretation and subject to diverse approaches. Our kind of activity started filling in a gap in the field and then grew and our needs grew as well, and then we started reaching out for more people. This took us back to our initial SWOT research which analysed the field of business consultants, so as to potentially trace the right specialists to join our team but most of all share our vision and our philosophy for the educational landscape in our country. This temporarily proved to be a fruitless and heartbreaking venture, but only because we had to adopt a different point of view.
Our field, with all the problems and drawbacks it suffers, is maybe one of the few fields bearing the highest Spiritual Quotient (SQ) of other professional fields in our country. That quotient cannot be served just with numbers and fancy promotional ideas.
In the past three decades, business and HR consultants have based their guidance only on measurable criteria and the use of them. Leaders’ IQ and EQ became the measuring tapes of inter-personal and inter-customer communication. Every business and marketing plan started with a SWOT analysis, Porter’s five forces, interrelated market research and financial and human resources analysis and projections. Traditionally a business plan also stated the vision of the business man/woman, but that ended up serving as the decoration only. The main axis however, has always been the competition and relevant competitive advantages against investment and profit.
From the moment we started researching other professional fields, along with ours, we saw that private ELT in Greece is the only field that professionals join not only to make money or just because they like this job. There is maybe the highest proportion of professionals that join a field because they really have a vision of what education should be, and want to make changes based on strong ideological foundations. Whether they know that they are joining a semi-recognised field or not, they soon understand that they are filling substantial gaps of the official educational system, while the foreign language exams and certificates were just the means to do so.
Business consultancy has a very clear purpose; to make the owner of a business conscious of the functions and pre-requisites for their business to grow profitably. This approach is based on two basic principles. The first is that sales are based on market needs so we should focus on how we can lead market needs effectively. The second is that profit is the ultimate target for the business and entrepreneur’s viability. The whole focus of these principles makes use of the variations between businesses in the same field to create communicative and competitive advantages.
In our field, however, all businesses offer the same service. All books provide the same learning targets. Also, in our field, needs, whether established or industry driven, eventually shape personalities. Education as a service or product breeds the market of tomorrow, but also the ethics, the dreams, the ambition and the effectiveness of our students in competing with more cosmopolitan citizens of other states in the big European melting pot.
What is it that could make a good business consultant too poor for the needs of a school owner? The answer is his/her lack of vision as well. However globalised our economy has become and principles of business viability apply to all sorts of enterprise, no business plan can guarantee viability of a school business if it doesn’t substantially bear in mind the personality and vision of the school owner. Measurable criteria must work towards the support of this vision and ensure inspiration of staff, students and parents involved with the school. Finance and marketing methodologies have to obtain a distinct identity reflecting the educator and the tens of generations that have been filtered through the school. Training has to become coaching and coaching has to become sharing and support. Most of all, especially for the educational business, business coaching has to take the form of life coaching. The parameters that recognize that the owner’s personality and the school reflect on each other have to become the corpus of each planner who then applies methodologies referring to targets, controls and correctional moves.
When reaching out for business support always make sure that:
a) Business and project planning are always followed by monitoring
b) An educational business plan always involves your vision and reasons for being in the field
c) You build on communicating your vision and finding out who are those that share it
d) You build on strengthening your vision and thus your messages to your local community
e) You face your financial figures as a tool that will empower your vision
f) You treat your business as a person that reflects your vision
g) You ask your trainer and then your coach to take you as seriously as their own vision for the field. Explore whether they have a vision
h) Your specialist knows your field from within
i) Your specialist defines quality with criteria that reflect on your students.
Bearing in mind all the above, I have already made the decision that all my forthcoming training sessions will start with reference to the experiment of the 100th Japanese Ape. The field has already reached critical mass and is strong enough to initiate the next historical change.