When I look back, I can recall several times when Mark Smith mentioned the importance of utilizing business relationships with local establishments near and around your school. The first time he mentioned it to me was about 6 years ago when I was just getting started in the system. It was a tip on how to build up my school. He said “get a haircut Mike”. And I think I replied that I already had done so at one of those fancy places with the perks in Namba. He suggested that I go to one of the local barbers and continue to do so and remember to bring up the fact that you own a school in the area. Eventually that barber is going to pass on that info to his/her customers because that’s what they do. They talk all day. If I recall, I think Mark got a heap of students this way when he was first starting up. I took his advice on that tip and thought of other ways to build up my neighborhood network.
The first step I took was becoming friendly with the owner of the building we moved the Smith School of English Tsuruhashi into. We did this by inviting him to one of our school parties. Soon, the owner of the building, along with his daughter, became students of the school. Having him available to talk anytime, provided me with a lot of information and access to other businesses in the area.
From there, I tried to branch out more by using other local shops, such as video stores, bento shops, izakayas, book stores, restaurants, hospitals and dentists. Those are just a few examples. In most cases, just going to these places and being friendly is enough to get the good word out. But, it can also be beneficial to take it to the next level. I’ve exchanged brochures, flyers, and postcards with lots of companies and held events at others. It all depends on how far you want to go and how comfortable you are with it. We’ve heard many stories and received lots of advice from each other over the years. From wearing that Smith School of English t-shirt around with pride to literally blanketing your area with posters and flyers. While all may not have the same effect, it is guaranteed that the effect will be positive. Get out there and let everyone know that you’re there and that you’re there to stay.