Back in 2007 I was just a fresh faced 24 year old who had recently returned from backpacking and was ready to gamble my future on a business idea my brother had conjured up. So, instead of getting a ‘proper’ job upon my return, I worked night and day with him to build Sprint Education.
As the business turns 10 years old this year I think it’s the perfect time to take a look back and consider some of the crucial business lessons that we have learned whilst building Sprint Education.
There are many of course, however we are going to focus on the most valuable lessons we’ve learned in the hope that you'll find at least one golden nugget of inspiration that you can apply to your own education business.
So let’s kick off with Lesson #1.
Lesson #1: This may shock you but it is… Sack a problem customer!
This lesson goes against everything you are taught in business…
“The customer is always right.”
But I’ve learned the hard way over the years that this ideology isn’t always correct.
Now firstly, I must state that 99.99% of Sprint Education’s clients are outstanding! They work well with my team and together we strive towards a common goal – to make our client more sales from the education sector. However, as with all companies out there, every blue moon a ‘rogue’ will rise up and cause your business or staff problems.
When I was starting out back in 2007 my belief was that the client was always right, no matter what! But this attitude clouded my take on the reality of some situations.
Then an incident occurred a few years ago which changed my thinking altogether. A new client had sent out an email campaign with us, with part of his email asking schools to click through to a well known video hosting website to watch his video. One teacher, having received the email, called our client to explain that their school’s filtering system did not allow her to access this website so could he send them the video directly to watch.
After speaking with this teacher the client then phoned me up, and for the first and only time in 10 years, he unleashed a torrent of abuse too rude to type in this blog. The client’s issue revolved around his opinion that Sprint Education had the power to alter any school’s web filters across the UK so they could access any website, and why had we not done this before launching the campaign so the school in question could watch his video?
I tried in vain to explain it was impossible for us to alter schools' web filters and that we didn’t possess magic powers to fiddle with other organisations' systems. I explained that website filtering is usually managed internally by a school’s Network Manager and that they alone possessed the power to un-restrict certain websites, not Sprint Education. However, the client refused to believe this was true and continued in his demands for me to alter the school’s website filters.
Two days later the client phoned me back, and having now done his own research he understood that what I had explained was correct, and I was not at fault, and also because he had made several sales from the email he was really happy to book in his next campaign.
The question then hit me, what should I do? Take the money and book in the next campaign, or maintain my company’s self-respect?
Whilst he spoke to me on the phone I thought back to how he had spoken to me in his moment of rage, and I then considered what the greater effects would have been had he spoken not to me, but instead to one of my staff in this way. How would they feel, would it dampen their enthusiasm for working at Sprint Education? It certainly would have been very unpleasant for them!
It was at this point I had my moment of clarity.
I could not let anyone speak to me or my team in such an unprofessional manner, no matter what the reason and how much money they were offering for a new booking. After all, one of my team members is my Mum (and no one would want their Mum spoken to in this way). So I decided it was the right decision to ‘sack’ the client.
As the client was talking, I politely interrupted him and calmly explained that due to how he had handled the previous discussion with me I had taken the decision to not work with him or his company again, that our ideas of a positive working relationship were clearly poles apart, and that I wished him all the best with his education marketing in the future. I left it at that.
Over the years they’ve tried a couple of times to work with us again after the initial campaign generated so many sales for them, but each time I have politely refused their request. It’s a tactic that I’ve reluctantly and rarely had to employ over the years, but sometimes when you get the feeling that a new enquiry is going to turn bad or may have a negative effect on your business, or even your staff’s morale, then trust your gut instinct and pass up the opportunity. You, your team, and even the client will all be much happier in the long term.
Marketing to Schools
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