A Challenging Year
This year has been a challenge for everyone. Every year is a challenge, but 2020 has been a challenging year, uniquely difficult. Being a small business owner is even harder. Having a family to feed adds another layer to the trouble. We have felt stress like never before, and yet we have always been positive. Why? How is this possible? The answer is simple: franchise support.
Franchise Head Office Support
The support we have received from our franchise head office has been the key to being able to keep our business running smoothly and above water. I’m not saying everything has been perfect, but as a member of a franchise, we get a lot of support. Even before Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic, Smith’s head office had contacted us to explain what they were doing to monitor the situation. Head office sent us regular updates on global matters as well as the domestic situation.
In March we started receiving memos from head office including new operating procedures for proceeding safely. Our students’ health was our top priority and head office offered various options for franchises and for our students. Smith’s system is already incredibly supportive, and the new protocols were considerate of the various owners, coaches and students and all of our needs. Though freedom is a key part of Smith’s school of English conversation’s operating philosophy, one thing was set in stone from the very beginning of the pandemic: the new set of 9 rules for remaining open during this crisis were non-negotiable.
Smith’s School of English: 9 Points for Safe Operations
These 9 rules were discussed with the owner’s group prior to making them policy. We all had input, and this made for a very robust set of guidelines. This set of rules let’s our students know that we are open and ready to deal with this virus. Welcome, come on in. Alone, I never would have been able to come up with these rules. As a group, including over 20 owners, head office staff and Mr. Smith, we were able to come up with a set of guidelines to allow us to move forward safely. Follow them and you will be safe, your students will be safe, our franchise system will be safe. Of course we understand that no system is perfect, and these rules are not a guarantee. As a franchise group we could work together to create a stronger system for moving forward.
Being a member of a franchise system basically means having a group of like-minded individuals around you. You all share a common goal and can support each other in various ways. I remember way back in January having a discussion with my colleague Jim from Smith’s school of English in Sagamihara. We were talking about his newly renovated school and one thing we discussed was setting up a hand washing station at the entrance to our school. Jim showed me his new school and I was impressed. We then et up a hand washing area at our school. A few months later, this became standard practice. The “new norm”. Thanks to Jim’s suggestion, I felt ahead of the game. Throughout this difficult year, I have been happy to have the support of my fellow franchisees. Together we are getting through this.
Head office has also helped us all out with the move to online services. For those of us who wish to offer online classes or other forms of online service, head office has worked hard this year to provide us with various frameworks for making this happen. Thanks to years of hard work leading up to this pandemic year, we already have a solid online scheduling system, emergency alert system, online curriculum resources and weekly online One Point lessons. During 2020, head office staff have worked hard, with input and help from franchisees, to set up a system for teaching classes virtually. We have been given a variety of options: in-class only, online only, or a combination of both. Once again I am amazed by the system- alone I never would have been able to do this. As a team, more is possible!
It may seem simple to say, but it is my true feeling. Thank you. Thank you to my colleagues for all your support. Thank you to head office for all of the systems and resources you have provided us. Thank you to Mark Smith, for creating this wonderful franchise group and for allowing us to be a part of it. Being part of a franchise has made being a small business owner in a foreign land possible for me. This year more so than any other, I am so glad to be part of a team, and not alone.
Smith’s School of English Otsu Franchise Owner