How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 4. Lesson Policy

VivianaProtecting your teaching business is as important as building it. Sooner or later you will have to deal with students cancelling classes or paying late. This can have a negative effect on your business growth and can quickly zap you of enthusiasm. Be one step ahead and create a Lesson Policy Agreement to establish the rules. It is crucial to create and maintain a teacher-student relationship in order for the lessons to be successful.

Every tutor, studio or school will have different conditions under which the operate. At the same time, there are some common areas that should be included in every lesson policy. It is always better to have things spelled out in a written document to form a partnership where everyone knows their roles and responsibilities. Your lesson policy should be fair to both parties to protect you as well as the student.

This information is meant to serve as guide only. You should always seek the advice of a professional  before acting on it.

Roles and Responsibilities

Rules for the teacher

Image by mick62 via Flickr

What is your responsibility as a teacher and what do you commit to? In this section you can outline your teaching style and your role as a teacher in terms of motivation and encouragement of your students; as well as your commitment to creating a stimulating and friendly atmosphere.

What do you expect from your students and what are their responsibilities towards you and your lessons? Perhaps you can specify how often you expect them to practice, state whether you will require them to complete their weekly assignments, or explain that it is their responsibility to show up on time.

These points may sound like a common sense but it is always good to lay down the ground rules to articulate a set of expected behaviors for everyone.

Attendance

It’s a common practice to require certain attendance rate for your course, namely if you provide some kind of certificate at the end of the term. Students are usually required to miss no more than 20 – 25% of the classes. This can be an important information for some people as they might need a course completion certificate for their employer or school.

Cancellations and Reschedules

Closely related to the attendance point is a question of cancellations and reschedules. From talking to many freelancing tutors and teachers, I understand this is one of the main issues they have to deal with and that continuously frustrates them. Even though you put your conditions down on paper, people will try and negotiate with you later and request make-up lessons when they are not, according to your policy, entitled to them. It’s ultimately at your discretion how strictly you will stick to the rules, but you need to be prepared for these situations.

Schedule

Image by theogeo

What you should consider when creating your cancellation policy:

  • How much notice will you require for reschedule?
  • Will you allow exceptions to this requirement, e.g. illness, family emergency?
  • Who will determine the time of make-up lessons?
  • Will you allow reschedules of make-ups?
  • How do you want to be notified of scheduling issues and cancellations?
  • Will you issue credits for cancelled classes?
  • What is the notice period required for termination of the course?
  • Will you charge a fine for terminating the course before the end date?

I did some research around and it seems to be fairly common to ask for 24-48 hour notice for any schedule changes. Same day cancellations and no shows usually results in full lesson fee being forfeited with no rescheduling available. In most cases, make-up lessons are solely based on teacher’s availability and cannot be rescheduled again. I also came across a teacher who has a make-up lesson week at the end of each semester for all students who missed a lesson, which I thought was a great way to deal with this issue. It is a common practice not to issue credits for cancelled classes, unless cancelled by the teacher. Some teachers reserve the right to terminate the contract after two unexcused absences, some charge a fine if the student terminates the course early. The conditions differ from business to business.

It might be a good idea to include all days with no lessons held in your policy, e.g. public holidays or school holidays. Do your lessons follow the local school calendar? Are they weather dependent?  If so, indicate what will happen in the case of bad weather.

Read more about make-up lessons:

Payment

Money

Image by martinhoward via Flickr

This is obviously one of the most important parts of your lesson policy as it determines how you will get paid for your teaching services. You have to determine how much you will charge for you classes and what are the conditions of any discount you may offer. Specify how and when you want to be paid. Do you want your students to pay on a monthly basis or do you require them to pay the entire course upon enrollment? Will you accept late payments? How are you going to deal with consistently overdue accounts? These are some thought starters for you to consider. In any case, you might want to seek the advice of an accountant and/or a lawyer to determine the best terms and conditions for your business.

Teacher Absence and Refunds

As mentioned earlier, you need to decide under which conditions you will issue refunds for cancelled classes. It is recommendable that you, as a business, offer compensation for services you could not provide; for any reason. In the event of absence from your part, you might want to offer make-up lessons based on the student’s availability. If you don’t find a suitable time, issuing them a credit is probably the best solution.

Some more questions to think about: How much notice will you have to let them know of your absence? What happen in case you need to terminate the entire course due to unforeseen circumstances?

Tardiness

Time Flies

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

How long are you willing to wait for your students? Again, it’s ultimately up to you, but you it’s a good idea to include this in you lesson policy so they are not surprised next time they arrive twenty minutes late and you’re gone. To play fair, you should apply the same time limit to yourself and offer them a make-up class or a refund if you are significantly late. Having said that, you want to aim at not being late under any circumstances! It is your prime responsibility to be on time and prepared for each lesson.

What Is Included

What is covered in the tuition and what is not? Do you provide your students with any study materials as part of the course? Are your travel expenses included in the fee? Are students expected to bring any specific books, tools and equipment? This will obviously depend of what you teach and where. Just make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re paying for, so there is no surprises later.

I hope by now you are ready to create your own Lesson Policy Agreement. Do you have any other tips I didn’t include in the post? I’d love to know them, so please share them with us in the comments section.

Did you like our post? Keep in touch for more updates and great links:

Facebook ButtonTwitter Button

Related articles:

Blog Banner

Advertisements

How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 3. Create a Business Plan

VivianaMany people think creating a business plan is a complicated process and see it as a necessary evil. But… it can actually be quite an exciting activity! Look at it from this perspective: you are laying down the foundations of your future entrepreneurial endeavor. And a business plan will help you articulate your idea and get you started on the right foot

Don’t worry, you won’t have to spend hours writing it. All you need to do is answer 10 simple questions! The days of a 60-page business plans are long gone, thank God! The process can be actually done in an hour, or maybe an afternoon. Still not convinced? It can be done on one page too!

To help you with this matter, I created a one-page business plan template so that you can just fill it out and get your teaching business started today!

The One-Page Business Plan

I created this business plan template based on my own research and experience. I used it for the purpose of starting my own business as I strongly believe in the power of “less is more”. If you can define your business in one simple sentence, you’re likely in a good position to launch and grow your company.

Less is More

Image by hooverine via Flickr

How to fill out the One-Page Business Plan

Now that you have your business plan template in front of you, you can see how simple it is to fill it out. You don’t have to be an experienced business strategist or a marketeer to be able to answer those questions. As an example, I will use my fictitious “Chili Cooking School” to walk you through the template. I love to cook spicy food so if anyone actually offers these courses, please get in touch with me.

Now, let’s get started!

OVERVIEW

In the first section, you are asked to describe WHAT you offer, WHO are your customers and WHO are your competitors. This section outlines of your (future) business and will serve as a foundation for the strategic part of the plan.

Q1. What service(s) will you offer? What do you do and what is special about it?Try to provide one-sentence description of your business. You can pretend this is a question a friend asked you. What would you respond so they immediately understand the nature of your business?

Example: We offer cooking courses specializing in spicy ethnic foods. Our renowned chefs only use fresh local produce and home-grown organic chilies and spices.

Chilies

Image by Nina Yasmine via Flickr

2. Who will buy your service(s) and why? Define your potential customer and explain why they will pay for your service. Ask your (potential) customers why they (will) use your service, if you’re not sure. You need to get to know your target market and understand their needs well.

Example: Our classes are for spicy food lovers who want to learn how to prepare quality hot dishes. They will attend our classes to learn about exotic chilies spices and their preparation methods.

3. List your three main competitors. Start gathering information about your competitors, or at least identify who they are. Keeping an eye on your competition is necessary for growing your business. Even if there is no direct competition in your local area, there are always indirect competitors you will have to face sooner or later.

Example: There is no other school in Sydney offering spicy cooking classes. Jay’s Culinary School offers ethnic cooking classes, Fresh Cuisine and Cook Healthier provide organic cooking lessons.

Read more: 10 Tips on How to Research Your Competition

STRATEGY

The second part of the template should help you develop a compelling value proposition and define what is it that you business will bring to the market.

“Strategy is not planning — it is the making of an integrated set of choices that collectively position the firm in its industry so as to create sustainable advantage relative to competition and deliver superior financial returns.”

Source: Harvard Business Review

4. How will your product solve your customers’ problems? This question is closely related to the question number 2. What problem is your business solving and how? Every time we buy something we are, in a way, solving a problem we have. To simplify the matter; if we’re hungry, we buy ourselves a snack.

Problem Solving

Image by StockMonkeys.com via Flickr

Think about your business as a solution to someone’s problem. Why do your customers need you? What problem is your product responding to by being on the market? These are very important questions. To offer a service is not enough, you need to offer a service that people need!

Example: It is difficult to find exotic chilies in Sydney. People spend long time researching exotic spicy recipes with an uncertain outcome. We have a great selection of fresh chilies and work with experienced chefs so spicy food lovers can discover new flavors through a hands-on experience.

5. What makes you different? Why is your service different and better than the competition? It is unlikely your service is one-of a-kind. I bet there are other tutors or private schools in your area who have similar courses in the same discipline. You have to think about what makes you stand out from the crowd and how you can distinguish yourself from the competitors. In other words, you have to create a Unique Selling Proposition.

Example: We offer unique cooking experience for anyone interested in spicy cuisine. We pride ourselves in providing organic fresh produce and grow the largest selection of fresh chili peppers in the country.We work with renowned chefs in Sydney. 

6. How are you going to make money? How much does it cost you to provide the service you want to offer? How much does your service cost and how many customers can you expect? You need to get into the basic financial modelling to make sure your business will be profitable. Again, start with simple assumptions and basic calculations to have an overall idea.

Example: We will host 50 cooking courses in 2014. Each course costs $500. We expect to have 10 students per course. Our estimated costs are $150.000. Our projected profit for 2014 is $100.000.

Gap

Image by S John Davey via Flickr

7. Describe the gap in your market. Questions 3 and 7 are not about your business but about your competition. After you have found your main competitors, you should be able to identify what is missing on the market you are planning to enter. And more importantly, are you filling that gap?

Example: While there are multiple quality cooking schools in Sydney, none of them specialises in spicy foods. While other schools provide organic local produce, none of them grow their own spices. Classes taught by renowned chefs are rare to find.

8. How will your potential customers learn about your business? How will you attract your first students? Outline your go-to-market strategy. You need to think about how you will reach your target market and where you will promote your service. Your marketing strategy will depend on many elements: the nature of your business, who your customers are and how they consume information; and obviously your budget. You cannot expect that people will find you. Especially at the beginning, you need to FIND THEM!

Example: Offline: We will advertise our courses on the local radio stations and in the local newspaper. Online: We will be using Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to promote our school. We will give all new students a 10% discount. We will use our chefs as our brand ambassadors to spread the word.

Find your destination

Image by VinothChandar via Flickr

9. What are you aiming at? What is your long-term vision? Think about where you want your company to be in three years. Your vision should be inspiring and extincting for everyone that works with you. Having a vision is about knowing where you’re going, not how you’re going to get there. First, you need to choose a destination, then you figure out the best way to get there.

Read more: Creating a Company Vision

Example: To become one of the most renowned Sydney’s cooking schools; providing world-class customer experience. To be the destination for spicy food lovers.

10. How will you measure success? Your business, like everybody else’s, is based on assumptions. There are different metrics you can employ to measure performance of your business against those assumptions. It’s a hard call because these will depend on how you actually define success of your business. Is your success going to be measured by profit, company productivity, customer or employee satisfaction? Probably by a combination of at least some of these.

Read more: Five measures for micro business success

Example: The most important metrics we will use to measure success are: brand awareness, sales conversion rate, customer satisfaction index, revenue growth.

I hope by now you are ready to create your own business plan and you will have fun doing so! I’d love to hear your experience with filling out the One-Page Business Plan. Please share your comments or questions below.

Did you like our post? Keep in touch for more updates and great links:

Facebook ButtonTwitter Button

Related articles:

Blog Banner

How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 2. Gain Recognition

VivianaStarting your own teaching business is a highly rewarding experience. At the same time, it requires a great amount of hard work, patience, focus and responsibility. Last week we talked about how to get the right skills to become tutor or a private teacher. Today, we will cover how you can get recognition for those skills and how to best manage your online reputation.

Get Visible

If you cannot be found, you don’t exist. You need to get visible so that your potential students can find your business. To start with, you have to think about your brand. Are you going to use your own name or are you planning to use a business name? It all goes back to what image you want to project and what your personal and business goals are.

Visible Light

Image by sweethaa via Flickr

Personal Name vs. Business Name

Using your personal name is obviously the easiest option. In Australia, you won’t need to register a business name if you use your individual name. Don’t forget you will still need ABN (Australian Business Number) for tax purposes!

From a branding perspective, your personal name suggest you are a freelancer running your business by yourself. This can be an advantage as some people might prefer individual tutors with a personal touch over more anonymous private schools. On the other hand, this may become a problem when you decide to scale your business and hire other teachers and can become a real hurdle if you decide to sell your business one day. In some cases, using your personal name can be seen as less professional and less credible.

Using a business name for your brand can allow you to communicate your Unique Selling Proposition in the name and combine it with a logo that represents your values as a business. Choosing the right company name is extremely important for your business and can have a critical impact on your future success.

Read more: 8 Mistakes To Avoid When Naming Your Business

When you decide on your name, you need to register it with ASIC, or a respective organisation in your country. Your name has to be unique in your state or country and cannot be already registered by someone else.

Now that you decided on your name, it might be a good idea to buy a domain name to represent your company online. Even if you do not plan to go online straight away, you don’t want to risk someone else buying your desired domain name. It’s a negligible cost that can save you a lot of trouble in the future.

Read more: 12 Rules for Choosing the Right Domain Name

Build Trust

Trust

Image by mikebaird via Flickr

So now you have a business name and you’re officially in the business. That’s a good start, but to be honest, it really is just a start. You will need to work hard on convincing your first customers that you are the professional, knowledgeable and reliable tutor or trainer you claim to be.

How do you do that? Try to get testimonials from your past and existing students. If you are completely new to teaching or tutoring and are starting from scratch, it might help yo ask your trainer, teacher or employer for a reference to highlight your qualities as an educator. These referrals not only build trust for your business, but also establish respect among your peers.

People Google literally everything nowadays. Even if you do not have the resources to build a website or do not want to make such a big commitment yet, you can set up a free WordPress site where you present your bio, showcase student testimonials and list any qualifications or awards you might have gained.

If you are from Australia or New Zealand, you can set up your teacher profile on Knowinger, our new education marketplace, and start offering your classes and building your reputation via our platform. It is completely free to create a course and acquire new students!

If the online world is not your thing, you can build your reputation through publishing articles in the local press or speaking (or at least participating) at conferences and events attended by your target market. Performing is another great way of acquiring new students and building your brand, if you happen to be a musician or a dancer. If you make art, you can use your products to showcase your skills and start building your reputation through your existing customers.

There are many different ways you can build trust for your teaching business, depending on your discipline. In general, one of the most powerful drivers of growth for small businesses is word-of-mouth. It can take some time to build your client base, but if you provide them with an excellent customer service and great product, they will not only come back but will tell their friends about you.

We will be covering some smart and affordable marketing tactics in one of our future parts of the series, so stay tuned 🙂

Become a Thought Leader

Another step in gaining recognition is to become a thought leader or an authority in your field. As you can imagine, this is not a quick win. It is a rather lengthy process you need to invest a lot of time and effort into. If you do it well though, it can lead to a great revenue growth.

Thought Leader

Image by kalidoskopika via Flickr

Probably the best way to begin your journey is to start a blog. Your blog should be closely related to your teaching business, but the tone of voice and overall appearance will highly depend on your target audience. You would  probably choose a different voice targeting moms whose little girls attend your dancing classes, or writing for young professional who might be interested in your copy-writing course.

Read more: 30 Quick Content Marketing Tips Every Marketer Needs to Know

Leadership is a Journey

Image by Hamed Saber via Flickr

The next step on your way to become a respected expert in your field would be to publish a book. As difficult and expensive it might seem, there are many online tools you can use to self-publish an ebook.

Guest posting is another great way to gain reputation. Try and pitch your article to a well-known online publisher covering your discipline. You never know, you might get lucky!

Speaking at conferences, hosting podcasts, or creating online videos are another widely used tools that will help you make the cut. Participate in online discussions and forums and offer your expertise to others. Be creative, consistent and provide your audience with a quality content! 

It goes without saying that to be a true expert in anything, you need to immerse yourself in professional development. Reading, networking with your colleagues and attending webinars and conferences will help you keep up to date with new developments in your area of expertise.

Manage Your Reputation

Your reputation is everything! As a small business or an entrepreneur, you want to make sure that people talk about you in a positive way. You cannot afford unhappy customers and negative reviews. That can be detrimental to your business, especially at the beginning.

Where do you hide a dead body? On the third page of Google results.

You can’t really control what people say about you, but your can to some extend manage your reputation online. Start with searching your name on Google and include search in Google Images. Have you found anything that can potentially damage your professional image? You can either remove the content by yourself, if it was created by you, or hire an online reputation management agency who can help you bury the unwanted information. You should set up Google Alerts to monitor any mentions of your brand name on the internet.

As more and more students use reviews to make their decision, your online reputation is extremely important for your business. If you happen to get a bad review for your classes, respond to it and offer your side of the story. Do not take criticism personally and try to avoid responding emotionally.

Pay close attention to what people say about your competitors. You can use the information to fill in the gaps people are looking for and to gain a competitive advantage.

Make sure you use your existing social media channels wisely. Keep private things private. It might be a good idea to set up a separate Facebook and Twitter profiles for your teaching business, even if you are just a freelancer using your own name. The rule of thumb is: Do not share anything you don’t want your students to see or read. You never know when or where it can appear. Fine tune your Facebook’s privacy settings to reflect how you want to use your Facebook profile from a professional perspective. Maybe you want to use it as a channel to get your name out there and establish yourself as a trusted authority. In that case, you want all the information you share to be public. Or perhaps you want to keep your Facebook profile for private conversations only and would prefer to hide your posts from anyone but your friends. Either way, make sure to personalize your privacy settings.

Did you like our post? Keep in touch for more updates and great links:

Facebook ButtonTwitter Button

Now you know what skills you need to start teaching and how to gain recognition for your knowledge and qualifications. Next week, we will talk about how to create a business plan for your new entrepreneurial endeavor.

Knowinger banner

How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business: Part 1. Get the Right Skills

VivianaBecoming a tutor, private teacher or a personal trainer can bring you a lot of joy. Making a difference by helping somebody grow and learn is one of the greatest rewards. In our series “How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business”, we will show you how to take your passion for sharing your knowledge and experience to the next level and establish a successful and rewarding business you’ll be proud of.

Aristotle Quote

Naturally, the first step towards becoming a tutor or a private teacher is to identify your expertise. You probably already know what it is that you would like to teach, but it is always a good idea to do a bit of research and find your niche within or around your favorite discipline. Maybe you find out there is a high demand for your subject in a certain age group or that people are interested in a specific area that is not easily available in your town. Try and narrow your expertise down to something more specific and start growing your student base incrementally.

Now that you know what exactly it is you want to teach, you should start thinking about the skills you need to do the job well. There are two different set of skills needed for any career; technical and soft skills.

Technical skills you will need

Although there are generally no formal requirements to become a tutor or a private teacher, it is a good idea to acquire some sort of professional qualification in the subject or discipline you want to teach. This will depend on who your prospect students are and what their level of knowledge is. For example, if you are considering being an online tutor, you may want to consider an instructional technology degree in order to provide the best possible online classroom environment for your students.

Spanish Tutoring

Photo by Tulane Public Relations via Flickr

It is probably fine to have just HSC in mathematics if you are a university student who is planning to offer primary school maths tuition. On the contrary, to become a personal trainer you will be required to have a certificate in fitness and a first aid certificate.

You can find more information about the qualifications required and trainings available by visiting a website of a particular association, depending on your field of expertise:

If you are planning to work with children, you will need to obtain the Working with Children Check. “Pre-employment screening of adults and Volunteers who come in contact with children is mandatory and legislated for across most states and territories in Australia. However there is no national framework setting out the requirements for obtaining a Working With Children Check (or Police Checks) – and each state and territory has their own procedures and requirements.

Soft skills that make a good teacher or tutor

Apart from getting the necessary credentials, you need to think about the soft skills and qualities you should posses to become a good teacher. It requires a great amount of hard work to create a challenging and nurturing environment for your students. To some extent, your attitude towards your students and the subject can be more important than the skills and knowledge you have.

1. Enthusiasm and Positive Attitude

As already mentioned, your attitude is everything. You should be approachable to your students as well as your potential colleagues. A great teacher has an engaging personality and manages to hold attention of their students.

Teacher talking to students

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

Smile! It is an important means for building and establishing rapport. Smile is the easiest thing you can do to put your students into ease.

Learn more about how you can motivate your students.

2. Communication Skills

It goes without saying that a good teacher needs to be a good communicator. Sometimes, you will have to present complex topics in a way that is easy to understand. Other times, you will have to use metaphors and come up with examples to explain an issue that is foreign to your students.

You should also be, in some cases, prepared to maintain open communication with parents and make yourself available to them.

3. Listening Skills

Although it may seem that teachers spend most of their time in class talking, they actually have to be good listeners too.

“Good listening skills are needed to develop empathy and understanding with the students and to assess whether they understand what they are being taught. Listening skills also help in negotiating with students and defusing any potential classroom conflicts.”
(Source: ACS Distance Education)

Listen

Image by ky_olsen via Flickr

Active listening skills are also important when it comes to better understanding your students’ needs and discovering what their strengths and weaknesses are. Simply, mastering your listening skills will help you become a better leader and educator!

4. Being Passionate about the Subject

It may seem obvious but is needed to mention that a great teacher has a deep knowledge and is enthusiastic about the subject they are teaching. A good instructor or tutor always stays up to date with the latest trends and developments in their field; they spend a significant amount of their time studying themselves!

Teachers must be ready to answer or research their students’ questions and act as a subject matter experts in their field. This would be hard if you don’t love what you teach, don’t you think?

5. Organisation and Time-management Skills

If you become a private instructor or teacher, you will most likely spend a lot of time planning your lessons as well as organising your schedule. It is possible you will be travelling between individual classes with a tight timeline to get from one place to another. Good planning can save you a lot of travelling time!

You need to be very organised and possess strong planning skills to make sure you are always on time, well prepared and that you always deliver high quality lessons. Your organisation and planning skills will have a significant effect on the learning experience of your students.

Time Flies

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

You may be surprised how much administration work is involved in teaching in general, so be ready to spend some time behind your computer managing your small business.

6. Friendly Personality

It is important that you have a friendly personality and are able to develop a cherished bond with your students. They will be motivated and will work harder in a friendly atmosphere. Try to encourage open discussions and make your students feel at home. You should enjoy working with people or children and be excited about helping your students out.

At the same time, you still need to maintain a professional approach. You need to combine both the guidance of a teacher and the understanding of a friend.

7. Patience

Teacher in classroom

Image by black vanilla via Flickr

Patience is a virtue! This skills may easily be the most important quality of a good teacher. You will have students who need more time to understand a certain topic and sometimes you will need to repeat yourself quite a few times. Extensive knowledge of the subject you teach does not guarantee that your students will comprehend it. Your patience with them, on the other hand, will certainly help them in the learning process and may stimulate their interest in the subject. It is your job to appreciate their individual personality and their unique strengths and weaknesses.

I am convinced it is the combination of both technical and soft skills that makes a great teacher. I’ d love to hear your thoughts on what skills and qualities are essential for a good teacher to have! 

Did you like our post? Keep in touch for more updates and great links:

Facebook ButtonTwitter Button

We will continue in our series “How to Kick-Start Your Teaching Business” next week with tips on how to gain recognition and build your brand.

Knowinger banner

Always Late? 7 Tips How to Be On Time All the Time

Facebook ButtonTwitter Button

Being punctual is not a magical gift some people posses and others do not. Anyone can master this skill! How come many of us struggle with being on time then?

It’s not easy to break an old habit, but it’s definitely possible. I put together a short video with 7 easy tips that can help you stop running late:

You are more than welcome to use this video for your own purposes.

People generally don’t want to be tardy and they don’t enjoy dealing with the negative consequences of this habit. Yet, even when they commit to becoming more punctual, they fall into the trap soon again. To avoid this, you have to  overcome some common problems and identify the benefits of being o time.

There are different attitudes and habits we develop during our life that influence our perception of time. The time perception also changes with our age. Some people just tend to underestimate how time much time has passed or how long it takes to do something or get from A to B. Others get easily distracted or are prone to procrastination in general.

1.The first step toward change is awareness

And this is the first step in overcoming any problem, not just lateness. The second step is acceptance. Many people rationalise their lateness away. They come up with explanations for being late by blaming external factors (traffic) or other people (kids). Unfortunately, rationalisation not only prevents us from seeing the reality as it is but also from addressing our problems. Own up to the problem and take responsibility for it. That is the only way to make a change in your life.

Cook's call

Image by garryknight via Flickr2. Just one-more thing syndrome

2. “Just one-more thing” syndrome

I bet we are all familiar with this one. “I’m just going to check my email before I leave the office”, we tell ourselves. Don’t do it! Whenever this thought occurs to you, grab your keys and run. You have to be really strict with leaving at a certain time and cannot afford to get distracted by this “one more thing“.

Don’t make the last phone call before you’re about to leave either. Just walk out the door and avoid this notorious last quick check. Otherwise it will most likely hold you up for longer that you anticipated and you’ll be late for your next commitment.

3. Estimate time better

If you are anything like me, then you probably tend to be quite optimistic when it comes to estimating how long things take. I always remember the shortest time it took me to get somewhere (driving probably around midnight) and use it for my everyday time estimates (driving at peak hours). Other people might believe they get more done in a certain period of time than they realistically can.

Time Flies

Image by Alan Cleaver via Flickr

The best way to overcome this problem is to start taking notes of how long things actually take. Just use your phone and record the duration of any activity you perform every day. Do this for a week to eliminate any anomalies and make an average at the end of your testing period. Now you have a chart of how much time you need for each of your daily tasks! Stick it on your fridge or save it on your phone, whatever works for you. The point is you should be able to easily refer to it while making your estimates next time.

4. Prepare for the next day

Clothes laid out

Image by kthrn via Flickr

Lay out your clothes for the next day. Going to the gym? Prepare your gym bag too. Put everything you need in your bag (phone, wallet, keys) and leave the bag by the door. Pack you lunch or snack and put all the materials you’ll need on a visible spot. You will be surprised how much time you’ll save every morning.

Maybe you have a morning appointment somewhere you’ve never been before. Look up the address and check how much time you’ll need to get there. Write down the main activities for the next day and plan your time around them.

5. Plan for trouble

Always anticipate something will go wring. The traffic gets heavier because of an accident, you forget your phone at home and have to return for it… These things happen all the time. Adding 20% to your time estimate is a good rule of thumb. If something takes an hour, allow 10-15 minutes extra time.

At the same time, you have to be mentally prepared for waiting. If nothing unexpected happens on your way, you are likely to spend those extra 10-15 minutes waiting. Don’t perceive it as a wasted time. Instead, take your book or notebook with you everywhere and use this time for yourself. Look at it as a bonus time!

6. Be a team member

Being late is disrespectful of other people’s time. In most cases, your actions affect others and you should be mindful of them. Start seeing yourself as part of a team, having a role in creating something great. You colleagues will appreciate the increased meetings effectiveness. Your wife will enjoy date dinners with you even more when you meet her on time.

Cheerleaders

Image by Ethan M. Long via Flickr

7. The clock is your best friend

Keep a clock in every room so you can always check where you are in time. Some people say you should set your clock ahead, others believe it will only make you accommodate the extra time in your estimates anyway. Whatever you decide to do, you have to be able to see what time it is, even when in shower.

You can also set up a timer to keep you on track with all your tasks. A great tip is to set reminders before each activity so you know you have let’s say 15 minutes to finish what you’re doing at that point.

I hope these tips will help you on your way to punctuality. And I’d love to hear your own tricks how to make sure you are on time!

Knowinger banner

How to Motivate Others

Facebook ButtonTwitter Button

Some time ago I published a post on how teachers can motivate their students. It received some great feedback from educators, which made me think it might be useful to turn the original post, aimed at teachers, into a universal advice to help anyone who wants other people to succeed.

I put together a short presentation outlining the seven important tips that can help you motivate others:

You are more than welcome to use this presentation for your own purposes.

Maybe you are a manager trying to motivate your employees, a personal trainer helping other people to get into a better shape or a football trainer working hard to get the best out of your team. In any case, if you want to lead anyone towards success, you need to learn how to motivate them.

Transcript of “How to Motivate Others” presentation:

Motivating others

If you want to lead a group of people or an individual towards success, you need to learn how to motivate them. People have their needs and they are driven to satisfy them. This desire motivates them to get the thing they want, which is their goal.

1. Get to know them
Pay attention to other people’s wants, needs, strengths and weaknesses. Spend some time and effort to get to know them personally and build connections with them. Show them you care about them!

Maslow's hyerarchy of needs

2. Set high expectations
You should hold everyone to high expectations and expect them to reach those high standards. Don’t forget to set the same high standards for yourself! You cannot expect them to deliver the best results unless you strive to do the same.

3. Be flexible
Don’t just try and stick to your plan if you can’t see the expected results. Combine different methods and strategies and keep testing them. Observe closely how people respond and define the best approaches for each individual.

  • Have a Plan B
  • Recognize uniqueness of each individual
  • There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to motivation.

4. Believe in them
Look beyond your people’s imperfections and problems and try to see their potential.
Help them focus on the possibilities and coach them through the potholes along the path.

5. Reward them
Give them personal feedback. Focus on their efforts and reward them for working hard. Encourage their hope by letting them know they can always do better. Give them another chance to demonstrate they can do it.

6. Smile
Smile creates a positive atmosphere where people feel comfortable asking questions and expressing themselves.

7. Be a Role Model

  • model positive choice-making by putting the best choices into action
  • apologize and admit mistakes; nobody is perfect at the end of the day
  • show respect to others and follow through in the same way you want them to follow their commitments
  • become a well rounded individual
  • be proud of who you are

Do you have any other tips how to get the best out of others? Please share them in the comments below!

Knowinger banner

How We Launched Our Startup For Just Over $1000

We’ve always talked and dreamt about starting our own business. Today is the day when our dreams are coming true, as we are officially launching the Alpha version of Knowinger in Australia and New Zealand!

The Origin of the Idea

Get an Idea

Image by Bookelï via Flickr

It all started about a year ago, when I decided to buy my partner Michal a piano for his birthday. I got him an electronic keyboard when he was away on a business trip – it’s a pretty big thing so it’s hard to smuggle it to the house unnoticed. And I also wanted to get him some private lessons, so he could get back to playing soon.

And that’s how the idea of an education marketplace started! As I was Googling around I found various options for him. The difficult part was to choose the right one. I knew I wanted something in the Inner West of Sydney, so he didn’t have to travel far. With the rest, I had no idea. I was flicking through tutor directories and private school pages and was getting a bit lost. I called a few teachers and asked them about their courses and methods but honestly, I didn’t have a clue how to distinguish a good teacher from a not-so-good one.

Although I successfully managed to get him a great teacher after about a week of research, it left me with a thought of a gap on the Australian market. “If I had to go through this lengthy selection process myself, there must be a lot of other people that face the same problem”, I thought. So I started asking my friends and colleagues and talked about my idea of the education marketplace with various people. I didn’t have any expectations as I was just at an idea stage at that moment. Most people said they’d welcome a platform where they could compare different courses in the town, see teachers’ reviews and book classes online. And that gave me the impulse to pursue my idea further.

From Idea To Execution

I was changing jobs at around this time last year and didn’t have a lot of time to further develop the initial concept. After work, I would be spending hours researching competitors, gathering information and reading about entrepreneurship and business. I slowly worked on putting a business plan together and the original idea started having more shape and structure.

I even gave it a name; Knowinger and bought a domain on GoDaddy. ($44)  In case you wonder, it means:

  • Evidencing the possession of inside information
  • Characterized by conscious design or purpose
  • Alert and fully informed
  • Highly educated; having extensive information or understanding

I am a digital marketer, which has given me a huge advantage in starting this purely online business. I could use my previous experience managing high-traffic websites and highly competitive campaigns for large corporations. Michal, on the other hand, is a versatile solution architect and developer with experience from various enterprise projects around the world. We are just a perfect team for this project, right 🙂

Viviana & Michal

After having a clearer idea on what exactly we want to do and how, we defined what features are crucial to to launch our MVP (Minimum Viable Product).Looking back now, I am convinced we could have made it even simpler, but I have to admit it is a hard battle for me being a perfectionist.

In among all the preparation and initial development happening, we were actually moving to Buenos Aires, where we currently reside. As you can imagine, the progress with Knowinger was quite slow and we could not concentrate on it as much as we wanted. In the meanwhile, I decided to leave my well-paid job in Australia, not to search for any job in Argentina, and fully dedicate myself to Knowinger.

After arriving to Argentina, we finally had more time to work on Knowinger. While Michal has still had his full-time job and can only work on the product development at nights and on the weekends, I can focus all my energy on our startup.

Getting It Out of the Door

We started by drawing use cases, business processes and categorizing features into priority quadrants.

Viviana sticking post-ads

By the end of this process, we had a pretty good idea of what we need to do in order to create a functional MVP with the crucial features.  I took a great free course on Coursera which helped me with user experience design for our web application. To design wireframes (a skeletal framework of a website) I used Balsamiq Mockups ($79), a great tool to sketch your design and quickly iterate without loosing time and money.

The next stage, and for me the most dreaded one, was the design. We knew we don’t have the skills, but were a bit nervous about having someone we don’t know design Knowinger for us. We started with the logo and posted a contest on Design Crowd. To be honest, the quality of the submission was very low, so I did not choose any of the proposed design. (Lost approx $70 on fees) You can post “non-guaranteed” project where you don’t have to select any design.
Knowinger LogoOn the other hand, you probably get a lower quality submissions than if you guarantee you will select and pay one. I asked my friend Zuza, a graphic designer, to help me with some logo ideas. She came up with a concept of the current logo. We then worked together on further developing it to the current look and feel. ($0)

After getting several quotes from different designers, we decided to take an alternative route and use Flat UI Pro Web User Interface Kit ($69) to keep the budget low. Luckily, we already had Adobe Photoshop License so I am not counting that into our expenses. I bought the header illustration on Veer and got some bonus credits as a new customer so it turned out to be free.

The Flat UI design framework is based on responsive layout and contains a huge number of components. It is an amazingly easy tool to use and I have to say I am quite happy with the result 🙂 Let’s see what you think! I was actually thinking it was a good exercise for me as I discovered a few holes in my wire-frame designs that would have otherwise been missed. Oops!

By this time, I would have set up Knowinger social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and Google +. I started interacting with our potential customers and engaging with a community of people interested in learning and personal development. I also started this blog on WordPress which didn’t cost me anything, as I already had my domain.

I created a video explainer using GoAnimate Business account ($79):

It’s a pretty simple animated video that shows the overall idea of Knowinger. I created the voice-over myself as I have some radio presenting background, which made the job little easier 🙂

I also created a pre-launch page on Launchrock ($0) where I collected email addresses of anyone interested in Knowinger. I later imported those emails into MailChimp ($0), an awesome free tool for your Customer Relationship Management.

Launch or Die

After I finished the Flat UI designs in Pohotoshop, Michal posted a project on Freelancer to find a front-end developer who would translate my designs into HTML ($780). I have to say we were lucky to work with Anton who is a patient and knowledgeable developer. Michal developed the back end of the entire web application by himself, so kudos for that!

In the meanwhile, I registered the trademark with IP Australia ($120). I already had an Australian Business Number, which made things slightly easier and cheaper.

All together, the total cost of Knowinger launch was $1257. I consider that a decent bootstrapping effort from our side!

Knowinger Cost Analysis

We spent the last few weeks frenetically putting everything together, testing the site and fixing bugs. It has been quite an intense time of not-enough sleep, movement or quality food. But it’s part of it, I guess. It never goes as you predicted and things just take longer than you expected. What matters is that from today onward, anyone can create a course on Knowinger and acquire new students completely free!

Knowinger banner

I wish you all good luck with your ventures and hope you found some of the tools and information useful for your own startup projects!