„I have tried almost everything, but nothing seems to work”, „Gladly, but I don’t know what to start with” and „I’m afraid to take risks” are perhaps among the most frequent thoughts crossing the minds of school owners when the topics of expanding the scope of school’s operations and entering new markets are addressed. And though on the one hand, I am not surprised, on the other hand probably when opting to pursue your own business activity none of you assumed you would reach a point of standstill?
I was inspired by two factors to write today’s article. One of them was an excellent article written by Ania Ćwiklińska. You can read it here. The other one was an extensive comment under the article, and more precisely the subparagraph 4. I will take the liberty of quoting its fragment below:
„Expansion experience for our school […] has been nothing but a failure. I tried to open the subsidiaries about 10 times. None of them turned out to be profitable.”
My best regards to the author and thank you for the inspiration 🙂 Why does it happen so? If you limit your activities to a single, narrow area, you have to acknowledge the fact that the potential it offers will be eventually exhausted. So it is only natural that if you want to treat your school as a long-term, profitable business, you need to open another door. But a new market does not always welcome us. I don’t know what failed to work in that particular case, but there can be several contributing factors.
1. Ignorance of the market
We often assume that if a specific form of running your school/course worked once in one place it is definitely going to work on another market. Wrong! There is certainly some chance it will, but this will be rather a matter of accident than a well-thought-out and well-planned action. Each market abides by its own rules, and the “copy-paste” form of operation is rather not the best idea to expand into a new place. Answer for yourselves frankly the question of whether you prepared yourselves for the expansion offer equally well as you had before opening your first language school?
Remember what it looked like. Probably in most cases, this was your place of residence (residential district/town/city), i.e. the market you know perfectly, which helped you to respond to its needs. What did the entire process look like? What did you start with? Getting to know the competition, researching the needs of potential customers, looking for a gap you could bridge with your offer?
This might sound like you have to start everything from scratch, but don’t forget that this time you have the extra knowledge gained during the running of your first school. Owing to this, it will be a lot easier! Perhaps throughout the time of pursuing your first activity you have already developed a unique system, something that makes you stand out against other schools. You may definitely transfer it onto a new market but remember you must always adjust it to the needs of such a market.
2. It’s been done before…
There is a general conviction that in order to expand you need to come up with something ground-breaking and innovative but this is simply not true. We do not need to build an empire comparable to such companies as Apple or big language school networks. It suffices if you stand out against the competition or better respond to customers’ needs. Perhaps a given market is missing a school that is more flexible, intimate?
Don’t be afraid to operate where there are already other schools. If several schools already function in a given place, this means there is a demand for them. We know cases when the third school was opened on a single street and it coped very well. This is not the case of making better-worse type comparisons but rather of thinking in terms of offering something different. Local forums or Facebook groups may be genuine mines of information. This is where residents of a housing estate/district inquire about good schools in the neighborhood or complain about shortage thereof.
Find out about the needs of the local community and check what is missing. Perhaps those are morning classes? It may also turn out that in the neighborhood there only courses for children or solely for adults. The market is still not saturated which is best evidenced by the growing number of language schools and the development of franchising schemes. Take advantage of this!
3. Ready, steady…failure
Don’t be afraid of failures, and rather reflect on where your plan failed. I have read recently that we embark on challenges of marathon dimension but we approach them like a sprint. And this is, unfortunately, our most frequent sin. We feel we are not prepared, we do important things at the very last moment, we lose control over the process but we still make a start. We do so because this is a matter of time, of money, because we are unable to wait anymore. Looking back from a time perspective it might become obvious that it would be much better to invest a little more, whether of money or spare time, but feel confident and feel ready at the moment when the entire process is launched.
You are bound to feel pressure, but even if you have already published a post at Facebook or you encounter an amazing opportunity to rent premises, it is better to delay the entire process than turn your grand debut into a nasty failure. You can only make the first impression once and if you have already had that experience on your first market, on the new one you start at point-blank. Make sure this start is well remembered.
I hope the above article will help you to overcome the resistance you have felt so far and will slightly clarify the issues of expanding the limits of the operations of your language school.
Already now I am inviting you to read the next part of the article, where I am going to describe examples of how to win new markets step by step. Not only local, but also global ones!
I am looking forward to your comments, perhaps this time your comment will inspire me to write another article 🦁💙