Marj al-Hamam, Jordan
The Managing Director has been fretting and fussing over money and clients. Just as world economies were tanking, we were trying to open a new business. As the daughter of not one but two small business owners, it has been fascinating for me to watch this big business unfold. I know that a huge amount of money must be poured into a new business: investment in overhead, staff, marketing and training. In opening a school, you must also invest in a lot of “disposable” assets like books, paper and other materials for students.
We’re very fortunate that the CEO knows this about business, is convinced of both the need and the market for what Bell can offer, and is willing and able to invest a great deal without much return. In fact, as I was discussing with colleagues recently, I don’t think his businesses are really about money at all. Of course profit is a motivator, but I think he has a very strong, progressive vision about the future of Jordan and the role progressive ideas of education have to play in that future. Despite the many bumps and growing pains we continue to encounter, I believe that we’re off to a promising start on a bright future.
Nevertheless, at present we are hemorrhaging money at an alarming rate, and the CFO is frantic. It’s his job to be frantic, of course. He’s supposed to make the books balance, and Bell is seriously upsetting that balance. For us, it means we’re tightening our belts everywhere, and the strain is starting to show on the staff. I know I’m feeling it!
Still, things are looking up. Our Young Learners program has been a huge success, with about 4 times as many students as our maximum projections. I spent most of the first day of the program calling every English teacher I know in Amman (which is many, fortunately!), and having them call all their friends, to find 7 more teachers for the second day of classes. We are also beginning to sign more big corporate clients, and there’s beginning to be talk of making a million by New Years … talk that doesn’t seem too terribly over-optimistic! The students we have keep re-enrolling, and say very complimentary things about us when they do. I’m becoming quite fond of our corporate students, even when their companies can make our administrative duties frustrating, because corporate students have such a dedication to really learning. They need English, now more than ever to keep their nice corporate jobs, and for the most part they’re willing to do almost any silly game or activity I’ve asked them to do in the classroom.
It’s been incredibly exciting to see this place open and grow, even as it’s been frustrating in other ways.