When franchisee Carl Keating (Keller, TX) spoke with Mathnasium Matters about his community visibility & networking efforts , he was quick to mention that establishing management processes ensured that he had the bandwidth to get out there and cultivate these key relationships without compromising critical components of center operations. In particular, “it’s the people who make the business,” he says. Here’s a rundown of the practices he’s implemented to ensure that his Instructors are best equipped to do their jobs well.
Carl established a management structure with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. He has two Lead Instructors—one works with students up to 6th grade and the other handles those in 7th to 12th grades. “They understand that they need to know the kids extremely well, know what they need from a curriculum standpoint, and be prepared to generate that curriculum.” Robust Instructor training is a must, as Carl delegates many day-to-day tasks. As far as daily center management goes, he and his staff “share responsibilities so most things aren’t dependent on one person to complete. It all starts with the training [HQ provides]—making sure that Instructors are proficient in the material covered. It’s a priority for me to get everyone productive as soon as possible, so we follow the guidelines—that once Teach and Move On is complete, they’re ready to move forward.” From there, he has them partner with more experienced staff members to learn the ropes as they settle into their new roles and also shows them how M2 works so they can access curriculum documents when needed.
To keep everyone on the same page, Carl has checklists for both Lead Instructors and Instructors that outline all responsibilities, from Mathnasium University and on-the-job training, to other areas of accountability. Staff members sign off as they complete each item. “The checklist contains key items they need to learn,” he explains. “It’s a list of responsibilities, and I’ll refer to it for follow up discussions and performance evaluations.
“Scheduling Instructor training is another big part of doing this right,” he adds. “Don’t wing it—schedule it in, and make sure they accomplish all their training. I’ll add an extra hour to employee’s schedules [as needed] to spend on training. On the schedules, they’ll see an asterisk for the hour that’s allocated for training. [In addition to Mathnasium University], sometimes they’ll be working with a more experienced Instructor side-by-side. Other times I’ll work with them on something specific—there are times when I notice that an Instructor missed a point on a piece of curriculum that should have been covered with a little more emphasis. I also want to prepare them so they can answer the center phone and answer certain questions for customers.”
Carl is a very involved manager, never hesitating to jump in and teach students when the center’s busy to maintain the appropriate student-teacher ratios, and also mindfully identifying areas where Instructors may need more support or training. “For example, when you first start, speaking from experience, it can take a while to get to know the little nuances in our curriculum,” he recalls. “There’s so much of it, and until you’ve actually gone through all of the materials for all the grade levels, you have no idea what sort of magic is in there. So I share that magic with every one of my Instructors. Take ‘Half of Odd Numbers’… there’s so much math magic in there for our elementary school kids, and understanding the distributive property of addition is such a neat and valuable tool for students. So as part of my orientation for new staff, I show them that piece of curriculum. They see immediately that when a student has this assigned in the Learning Plan, and if it’s delivered in the right way, they’ll walk away from it with a new love and appreciation for math because now they know something they didn’t know before. So as you discover these gems, make sure you’re not the only one who knows it,” Carl advises. “Share it with your Instructors.”
Consistent and clear communication ensures that your Instructors feel fully equipped to handle the responsibilities that come with their job. “Don’t assume that your Instructors always [know what’s expected],” Carl tells us. “Make it happen! Every Instructor has their own binder on the shelf with their name on it. When something new comes up, such as a piece of curriculum or an important article, I’ll print it out and place it in the binder for them. They have to open their binders in order to clock in, so that’s the most effective way to be sure that they see important written information.
“And, talk to everybody! If you find yourself as a Center Director or owner only engaging with students and parents, you’re missing a big part of your job,” Carl continues. “The only way to make sure your Instructors know what’s expected of them is to tell them.” To that end, he has daily check-ins and spot checks with all his Instructors, either before their shift starts or at convenient times during instruction hours. As an example, “when a staff member goes back to the [main Instructor station] to get supplies or grade a paper, I’ll ask them how it went with a particular student. What are they working on? How are you feeling about their progress?” He maintains a master list with information detailing where students currently are in their Learning Plans, and what they need to accomplish their goals, using the document daily as a point of reference during check-in conversations. Ultimately, Carl and his Lead Instructors are equally accountable for staying on top of student progress, and “over the course of the week, my Lead Instructors and I will cover every student on the list: What’s going on with this student? When’s the [Post] Assessment due? What are they struggling with? What do they have to re-do? Sharing this responsibility makes it easier for everyone to follow up with each student and meet their needs.”
In the spirit of thorough communication, Carl also schedules staff meetings to ensure everyone’s up to speed on important operational changes. “When the article on the value of Teach and Move On came out, we had to make some adjustments as we were using pods when we first opened. So we had a staff meeting to make sure everyone completely understood what was expected going forward.”
When prompted for staff management advice, Carl had few pearls of wisdom to share. To maintain the appropriate student-teacher ratio while allowing staff the time they need to complete their training, “You have to keep a close eye on your labor costs to make sure you’re not spending more money than you need to, so I set a payroll budget by week. I make sure I’m meeting that budget, and within that budget, I find the time to schedule training as needed. To schedule appropriately, what I did at the beginning was track the number of students by hour, every day. For example, I know between 2:00 and 3:00 on a Monday approximately how many students will show up. I know that during the school year, Mondays and Tuesdays are my busiest days, and on those days, most kids come in between 4 and 5 pm. Now that I’m more established, I still track [attendance patterns] although not nearly as often as I did when I first opened.”
In addition, “support your Instructors by looking for any obstacles to productivity,” Carl continues. “Is there anything that’s keeping you or your staff from doing your jobs efficiently? Look at things that could delay your efforts to get students what they need, and address it. It could be something as simple as getting two separate workstations for generating curriculum materials so both of my Lead Instructors don’t have to wait for a computer. If there’s anything in the way of providing what the student needs, it’s hindering your ability to service customers—and, at the end of the day, your potential for further growth.”
Finally, “Treat people the way you want to be treated. Be generous to your employees,” Carl concludes. “Now, I’m not saying give them all the money they’re asking for—I’m saying, be generous. I’ve found that as part-time employees, time is the most valuable thing to my Instructors. If they need time off, be willing to do that.” Overall, “do what you can to make sure your Instructors are having the very best time they can on the job, while following center rules and doing their jobs well.”