Starting a Montessori School begins with hiring the right mix of professionals. Montessori teaching methods are proven and effective, but a Montessori school is also a business. You have to have right professionals to ensure that your school will have a long and successful life instead becoming a statistical business norm and closing in the first five years.
1. Be Honest About Your Own Strengths and Weaknesses. By being candid with yourself, you identify the spaces where you need help. For example, you may be brilliant but not particularly assertive so you look for a more assertive director, administrator or attorney.
2. Hire the Right Attorney. The most common mistake in this area is hiring an attorney because you know them. They’re a friend or you have a mutual friend or you go to church with them. There’s nothing wrong with working with an attorney that you already know, but make sure the attorney is well versed in the areas you need like lease negotiation, employment law, real estate acquisitions…etc.
3. Hire a Good CPA. If you’re going to make money, you need to be able to account for it and protect from inappropriate taxes. A good CPA will save your money from taxes, and those savings compounded over years in business can determine the decade in which you retire.
4. Hire a GREAT Director. If you’re not going to be the director / administrator of the school, then this position will be the most important operational staffing decision you’ll make. Great directors can make a school, bad directors can bankrupt one. Beyond the normal Montessori certifications, look for directors who have genuine belief in Montessori. You want the kind of director that will be loyal to the ideology. This type of director is not only driven for your school, but she is also far less likely to jump ship to go to another type of school.
5. Engage Multiple Bankers. If you’re going to borrow money, you need to have one reliable banker for knowledge and insight and another 15 or so to make sure the first banker is giving you the best terms possible when you borrow. Failing to provide a competitive environment for your banker(s) can be extremely expensive to you. A difference of a quarter percentage point on a million dollar loan over 20 years costs you and extra $34,793. The U.S. has a lot of banks. It’s a competitive business. There’s no reason not to use them correctly.
6. Use Real Estate Transaction Professionals. If you’re buying property (land and / or buildings) and you’re not experienced in transactional work, get professional help to ensure that you won’t miss important factors in the transaction. Help can come in the form of your CPA, a real estate attorney and/or an experienced broker.
7. Hire an Internet Marketing Consultant. In today’s environment, you must have an internet presence. The good news is that social media allows you to leverage your advertising dollar more than ever before. Make sure your marketing person is a talented SEO (search engine optimization) person. Have them explain how the process works. Don’t settle for a list of the results the consultant says he can produce. For good examples to share with your SEO person, see many tested, successful marketing options like videos, e-book, blogs, newsletters…etc. at http://bfsinc.net/.
8. Hire a Dependable IT Professional. You will have computers. You will need an IT professional. Starting out, it’s better if this person is not part of your staff as some of the information exposed during the work may be sensitive.
9. Use a Professional Payroll Company. If you’re starting out with a tight budget, it can be tempting to think about doing your own payroll taxes. There are several good payroll companies. None of the major companies should have any problem managing your payroll. They’re not terribly expensive, and they are worth every penny.
10. Hire Teachers. If you’ve come this far, you probably already know what kind of teachers you want to hire. Hire the best teachers you can afford within a reasonable payroll budget, and don’t be afraid to dismiss and replace one if you pick the wrong one. It’s much better to remove a problem teacher from the school before they infect the others.
The early education industry is a great industry. It provides significant financial returns for doing genuinely important and rewarding work.
As always, I hope it helps.
Brad Barnett, President BFS®
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