It’s easy to loose yourself after a tough period. After a struggle, a lost or a break up it sometimes knocks the wind out of our lungs and make us feel less than. I have had the constant struggle with taking the feelings of a situation and misplacing it into other areas.
Recently, I shared that I had a business partner who came to help me manage my client retention issues and got very consumed with the amount of money I produced. Because of the constant staff churn, client issues and feelings of overwhelm, I went to her house, invited her to come and help me solve some of the staffing and customer issues and then gave her full reign over the company. The feeling of having someone to take the call, deal with tardy staff or to hear them vent allowed me to feel like the company was not at a better place because I brought in this lady who will work magic.
I never addressed any of the process issues, the timing of placements, the hiring and firing of staff and parents payment issues. I just simply took all the responsibility and dumped it on this lady I hired. Because I make a life-size replacement of myself, I thought all the headaches would simply disappear. It just would be a brand new company- No more MathConnex, but now we are Aceplan Prep.
The first challenge with this is, I rebrand as Aceplan Prep and took several of the same staff and client issues and expand the offering. Mathconnex was focus on providing outstanding math tutoring and test prep. Parents called for everything subject but we were called Mathconnex. Many assumed because we were called Mathconnex meant we only tutored in Math. When I told them we covered all subjects, they questioned the name, so to ease the constant explanation- we magically changed the name – Mathconnex is dead…..let’s give birth to Aceplan Prep. The new logo, new colors, new feel of collaterals and after spending close to $3000 rebranding with a website, an imaging….we were heart and soul….Aceplan Prep.
However, I never addressed the core problems we faced, the issue of slow staff hiring, the issue of poor payment structures and collection issues. The issue of over loaded tutors who showed up late and a poor office manager who never managed the finances. I was turning the old Mathconnex into an awesome new company and all the problems and negative issues would just disappear.
In walks Aceplan Prep…the blue and green logo, awesome brochures, postcards, banner ads, nice polos and the whole set of left behind. Our client folders were updated and I was on to something. To even it out, I brought this awesome sales lady to solve all the management problems. I was gonna see a company that struggled to cross $250,000 just blow numbers out the air and I was ready. The new managing director was gonna make all the headaches go away.
The first month in, we had one of the best marketing that took place, a wind-fall of 29 new students came and with them came a magnifying glass. The problems were multiplied. The calls were more vicious, the parents were more angry and the magician we hired was the fire chief. With 1f8 tutors tasked to do 25 tutors jobs, we restarted the SAT boot camps, we extended our out reach and we will run this ship like a well oiled machine….
Oh how I wish this post would have been about how the owner brought in a magician and after two weeks everything just went away but I am about to share the horrors of poor management.
In less than two weeks we had six cancelled contracts. Tutors were no longer hired and given pilot sessions to measure suitability. We hired, and throw, tutors were just like peas in a pot, we brought them in in droves, and the others leave in droves to so the cycle of revolving tutors seems like life was gonna end. September became October, 25 students became 49 students, 18 tutors became 14 tutors, and the demands were at pressure pitch. It was daily cuss out in the office either a parent, an angry staff a cancelled contract or someone in the office had had their ear full of the venom that was going around. The new lady was rubbing everyone wrong, cancelling partnership agreement, pushing back on the phone daily on parents who longed for a tutor to just show up and work and the atmosphere was just hostile.
In the midst of all this turmoil, was offered a brand new contract, 45 miles outside of Baltimore. A contract that will prove if I can manage, fail in style or just be down right crazy. I decided to jump at it. I wanted to impact Baltimore and I wanted to expand into a new vertical. It was a time to see if I was made from steal or if I was a wire brush. I choose to take it with all the additions and in walked the challenges. It was nothing but down right chaos. I stayed away from the office and started the new project. It was making ground. I supplied day labor to a company outside Baltimore and I wanted to help struggling people in Baltimore find gainful employment. This new venture was fulfilling. It took me away from the teaching stuff and the headaches in my office so December – February I was working outside the office. I came in on the weekends, listened to an ear full of complain and was constantly dealing with new staff, new tutors, new clients and lots of court papers. We were just into a whirl wind.
During this entire time, I was out on the other contract, I assigned the new magician to manage all the company finances for tutoring and bravely or stupidly approved her depositing money into a new account she opened and I had no access. Talk about a solid mistake. The problems at the office just got worst and by the time I finished the contract in Belcamp – 45 miles from Baltimore and got back into my office fully, I was 45 miles in debt. I was just lost for words.
I remembered getting call the Sunday as i prepared to go and teach the 5-9pm SAT Prep Boot camp and I was called by the magician to say, she forgot to pay the office lights and the office was out of lights. Now it’s Sunday, there was no way to get the light on and she asked me if I can talk to the parents. I did, I relocated the class to the library and taught the class.
The next morning early, I rushed into the office and grabbed for the receipt books to see what’s going on with finances. I had an office that do north of $20,000 monthly. Not a lot but for a little company in no man’s land…it’s big with just a few staff and a lot of challenges, I was sure that we had no reason why the lights were off.
I know we had a collection issue sometimes ago but this new magician is a money hog, she called anybody and demanded money and with her ability to ask for money, we were to turn my struggling $20k into $30-$40k monthly. That never happened. Parents called me angry and kept up the constant noise of wanting to see me. In the office that day, I realized that not only would I have to put on the lights, but student count was significantly down. We hovered somewhere north of 40 students when I left, we are somewhere south of 20 now. It’s a new company, running by a new magician and I had a new set of problems.
The old issues of client and customer service were not there because there was no customers there. The main class was the SAT Prep Boot camp, the many In-home students were cancelled and many never were refilled. The staff was down to just 10 tutors. It’s a lean – mean deadly machine I was coming into. The captain I left was now wheeling so much power that the first time I got to see her crown was when I asked for a full financial report of the operations. Was I in for a surprise. I was told, I can’t see it until she get ready to share. I was taken aback and I walked out the door, on to another parents home to deal with another client issue and never called and questioned the finances. This new magician on the throne became an emperor and ultimately the chief. I was literally run out of the office on a few occasion as I tried to ask, question or inquire of different issues. I was in for not only a surprise but it was just a big mess.
I quickly became cognizant of what’s going on and got into my full blown Caribbean boy….I fired the emperor and she left with the whole magic purse. I am now dealing with the courts, the county and law offices as I write this post but the matter is far from over.
However, I have full control of my ship, I have the ability to rebuild it, retool my mistakes and restore the service to the students and parents as was always planned. It was during this time that I realized that the format to gain clients, market to parents and to raise test scores was always the same. The ability to manage, it a totally different thing. The fact that I was running away from managing the issues and process related challenges was not going to go away because I brought a magician in. I had to independently address each of my issues like a man and face all the furnaces to get them out. The lady was a sales woman with a sales background. She saw some money , became excited and went for the purse. I willingly allowed her and now I am seeing the effect of being a weak leader.
So I am writing this blog with a few things in mind.
I want to share the journey to financial freedom that I am on as I regain control and direction of my company. I also wanted to show others how they can walk through the difficult situation and while I was feeling the slum of the stress, I want to share the journey of the resilience.
It’s a long journey and I am working on being better !