Running Your Business: A typical day in the life of my language school

I was recently asked about my job, and I thought that this answer would be sufficient to describe my daily tasks! It’s surprisingly detailed:

Well, it’s challenging in its own way and the range of tasks I do through the month is surprising: from the beginning of the month, payments and billing; middle of the month, admin and publicity; and the end of the month, all the other things we forgot!

We typically start our day at about 2pm with a trip to the bank to deposit the previous days takings, update the school bank account, then we arrive at school, it’s time for cleaning, updating the accounts, sorting out the books, checking the attendance papers, figuring out who needs help, answering customers questions, promoting new activities, updating the website (if necessary)… then we need to prepare lessons for the day. By the time students arrive, we’ve already been busy for 2 hours or more.

When the students arrive at 5pm, we arrange temperature checks, handwashing and maskgiving (if needed due to H1N1), then it’s off to see who didn’t come and call them. Class starts, before we’re done with homework, quizzes and assignments most of the classtime is gone in the first hour… break time… toilets are checked, … students are entertained, encouraged and chastised… we grab time for our water breaks, back to class… this is repeated three more times… till 9o’clock. Between 5pm and 9pm, parents are coming, suppliers are calling and the phone is ringing usually so all of this has to be handled, too.

After students go, we tidy up our books, classrooms, clean the toilets, mop the floors, and make sure things are presentable for the next day. Sometimes, we’ll also discuss some pressing issues that we haven’t had time to finalize yet. Then we then grab some time for dinner…

The most challenging part of our work is that we have to accomplish a whole day’s work including counselling, teaching, saleswork, marketing, etc. in only a part of the time most companies have. We’re only there for about 7 hours a day, and most of the time 4:45~9:15pm is the core hours where we have to do most of the stuff… it’s highly concentrated work.

That’s pretty much how we work at Dickson’s English school… sometimes we love it to death, we really enjoy the work, othertimes… it’s a bit of a pain (like waiting for workmen to show up…cleaning up rainwater after a typhoon, etc.) But that’s what happens when you own your business.

Nozkidz: Online and Offline Promotion for a Real World Business

Well, the last few days have been pretty busy as we’ve been pursuing both online and offline audiences for our school. So we’ve now managed to establish a fully bilingual website, with our own Blog in English. Offline, we’ve been promoting our classes with Teaching Demos, Activities, Flyers, and meet’n’greet style promos. It’s all been hard work, but we’re beginning to see limited success in a number of areas:

First, it takes consistency, timing and perseverance to get the promotions done. And just occasionally, a little flexibility. With the development of our online marketing effort, as I hinted, we’ve completed the initial stages of promoting the school site in English (with our english theme/blog), EzineArticles, Squidoo Page, WordPress, and Blogger accounts. While none of the resources is particularly developed or popular, the combined effect has been to boost traffic to the English half of our website.

Online: Honeypots and Keywords

For the Chinese half, we’ve focused more on developing the keywords, putting up basic content. Many of the avenues open to US/European blogs such as EzineArticles are not just available in the local Traditional Chinese market in Taiwan. So we’re looking at developing more micro-sites to act as honeypots for traffic and boost our SERPS. Given language difficulties, this is not currently being pursued in any intensive way. Keyword search, however, has provided some interesting news, and the results of choosing specific keywords a few months ago is beginning to bear fruit.

We initially did a simple evaluation of our site courtesy of the Google Keywords Tool available in the AdWords accounts, looked at the statistics for the past six months, and created our initial selection of keywords. This proved somewhat haphazard at first, as the terms we chose weren’t the most focused. After doing some refining, we focused on about twelve terms. We’re not ranking for many of the terms in Google properly yet. But I was sad about that, until I remembered in Taiwan, Google is very much an also-ran. So I decided to check out the Yahoo! rankings, and their results were astonishing. Of our initial ten terms, only three ranked in Yahoo and one in Google. But when I started searching the other keywords, I was astonished to find a total of 13 keywords in which pages from our site ranked in the top 30 results. And many were on the first page for the results in Yahoo! General indications are though that many of these key terms don’t have high search volume, but at the moment, this is only the second iteration of keywords.

It’s difficult to see the individual effect of additional successful keywords but in general terms traffic is now approaching an all-time high. We are pursuing additional options in the English side of the site, as well as the Chinese… but it takes a considerable amount of time.

Offline: Flyers and Promotions

Running a promotional campaign has pushed my designing skills to the limit as well as other aspects. We decided to go for color flyers, instead of the usual black & white, which came out very nicely. In addition, we made extra specific flyers and color attachments to suppplement. Many of the leaflets were handed out to existing students and parents, while we ended up pushing flyers through mailboxes twice in the last week. In total, we’ve had over 2000 flyers printed and delivered in the past seven days.

My colleague is always skeptical about such things, but in handling offline promotion, I really think it’s important to get in people’s faces so that you get a chance to build up name recognition. Though our community is smallish, it’s a fairly big city and things are always changing. Familiarity takes a lot of time to build up on the streets so we’re going to be printing a lot more and expanding our leaflet campaigns to reach the major residential communities in our area.

Since we’re a real world business, it’s important to pursue a dual strategy of promotion. Local search traffic just isn’t significant enough to rely on 100%, but having a website means we are open 24/7 for information and communication. It’s a healthy symbiosis.

Tags: business, affiliate, marketing

Taiwan banks reluctant to charge ‘account keeping fee’ – The China Post

Most Taiwan banks have no plan to levy a “deposits account keeping fee” from customers who have only a small sum of outstanding deposits in their accounts, although some foreign banks have already taken such a move.Some foreign banks, including Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking), have started charging a monthly fee from clients with less than NT$10,000 of deposits in their accounts.

Taiwan banks reluctant to charge ‘account keeping fee’ – The China Post – this article is typical of the usual double-speak that English newspapers in Taiwan are guilty of. The story is quite simple: with limited sources of income available, banks are now resorting to charging fees on low deposits. Typically this behavior is being seen in foreign-owned banks, who have already had account minimums for quite some time (another fact that ‘escaped’ the author of this story). The real news in this story is hidden away at the end: “The move of collecting the fee needs to be discussed and approved by the bankers association, he said. The talk about the possibility that Taiwan banks may charge a “deposits account keeping fee” from customers has caused concern from legislators.”

In real speak, this means legislators and banking organizations are already considering where and how banks charge regular amounts for bank accounts with less than a minimum amount in them. With interest rates as low as they are, it’s unrealistic to expect banks to shoulder these costs in the long term. However, looking after people’s money like this will attract a lot of criticism: why? Because banks are expected to use this money to make more money, it seems unreasonable that they should then make money on ‘free money’ and charge for the privilege of looking after it.


A customer who’s charged such a fee will likely terminate their business with any bank that attempts to charge them such a fee. Worse, it may make it more difficult to market to these customers in the future when things get better, and everyone has more money. Customers will remember who tried to short-change them and who treated them with respect.

There’s one local bank I had to open an account with that I hated from the first day I dealt with them. They were unknowledgeable, unhelpful, unprofessional and discriminatory in their treatment of local foreigners. Oddly, enough, the credit card that I have with them through their credit arm has been the perfect opposite of that! Anyway, competition is heating up in the local banking market with local bank consolidating, and foreign players eager to get into the China market. Truly, Taiwan represents one of the few relatively untapped banking markets in Chinese Asia at the moment, still.

I’ve been consolidating and reorganizing both our personal accounts and business accounts for some time, as a result of the credit crisis. While I haven’t got that much money to move around really, I’ve tried to make sure that risk is more diversified between bank accounts. In other words, I wouldn’t want to be locked out of a supply of money due to bank run or temporary closure.

For personal finances, I’ve divided my money between one local and one international bank. For business finances, one month’s emergency cash was deposited in another branch of another local bank. The only weakness in the chain is that personal and business finances overlap in one local bank. I should really do something about that by moving some money to another local bank. Unfortunately, there aren’t many banks in our area at all: and none of the big Taipei city banks have branches here at all.