One of the rewards of our work is to see how clients evolve and mature as business owners. This article is the first of an occasional series of insights from franchisees who have completed their first year in business.
Louise is the owner of the Jump! Swim School in Cardiff NSW, which has been open about 18 months. We popped in to say hello to her on a busy Saturday morning in March 2019.
Louise was on reception duties. Apart from greeting mums, dads and their children (some as young as 3-4 months) she took care of checking the young swimmers off against the register, handed out certificates, and made sure the centre stayed safe for all. With business up 50% from this time last year, we asked her what lessons she has learned in the last 18 months.
The importance of excellent customer service. A friendly, familiar face at reception is an essential element of success. Added to this, the person on reception needs to keep up with the fast pace of the classes. According to Louise, it’s not just about saying ‘Hi’, you need to know the names of parents and their children, and interact with them in a friendly and encouraging way. On top of this, there are day to day problems to solve, floors to mop and the centre to be kept safe and clean. In a customer service role you can’t let a bad day get you down.
Hire staff with the right personality and attitude. It goes without saying that the staff need to be qualified swim teachers, and have their first aid certificate and working with children checks. But a good teacher needs more than these qualifications. Louise has found that the best instructors have a genuine love for children and enthusiasm for teaching swimming, which means that for them this is not just a job. A teacher’s personality and approach to lessons really helps kids and parents enjoy and benefit from swim classes.
You need a wide range of skills to be a small business owner. Louise wears lots of different hats in the business. She is a teacher, handyman, pool-chemical adjuster, receptionist, therapist, and staff coach. She has to make sure the staff are paid accurately and on time, plan the rosters and know how the software works. Louise learned these skills is by rolling her sleeves up and doing all the roles in the business - at least at first.
It’s vital to take time to refresh and restore yourself. With all the demands of starting and growing a business, you need time to for refreshment and rest from work. Louise points out that in the first few months you probably won’t get much time off, but once the business has been built up and can afford additional staff, it’s important to schedule time off each week, and an occasional holiday. This allows her to maintain the enthusiasm needed to do her job as the business owner.
It was lovely to see the swim school in action, and to see how Louise has taken the business from one with just a few classes a week, to a busy business with plenty of happy customers.