Thursday, Apr 27, 2017

6 Things We Learned in the First 30 Days of Running a Code Ninjas Center

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We’re already a month in at the flagship location, Code Ninjas Pearland.
And what a great learning experience this has been! The parents. The kids. The curriculum. The workshops. The events. Everything has been so, so immersive, exciting, and fun.
As with any new venture, there have been hurdles to overcome. Here’s what we learned in the first month:
1. Your Manager Needs To Know Your Expectations
First, this isn’t a dig on our first manager. She was great, but it wasn’t a great fit.
As in any new employee relationship, expectations on performance and responsibilities are critical from day one. We learned this the hard way, which was almost unavoidable.
One example is that going in we didn’t budget for a cleaning service, yet we didn’t let the manager know this was part of her duties. It’s not her fault that we didn’t let her know, but we still needed it done. In the end, she did as requested, but I think it cause unnecessary friction.
Be sure you let the manager know that they are going to be responsible for everything at the center. As with any start up, the staff wears many, many hats and it is almost always a team effort. Here are a few things that we listed out to help the new manager get a better understanding of her responsibilities:
  1. Center is wiped down, vacuumed, and generally cleaned every night.
  2. Phone calls are required all throughout the day and we have a minimum quota for calls that are to be made and appointments that are scheduled. The manager is the outreach arm. We can’t sit and wait for walk-ins. Be proactive.
  3. Parents’ concerns are our main priority. Address them professionally and quickly.
  4. Children should have fun. Every. Single. Visit. There can be no exceptions to this. We have to proactively reach out during each visit to make sure they know that we are there for them to have fun.
  5. Basic budgeting for events and ongoing spend accounts.
  6. Follow the plan. Don’t make up new phrases, slogans, tag lines, or names for things that are in the franchise system. It works as is.
  7. Inventory levels and stock repurchases.
  8. Staff schedules and hiring.
  9. Birthday party and Parent’s Night Out scheduling and staffing
  10. Community outreach is critical in our market, so they are going to need to be in close contact with local schools, principles, and civic groups.
  11. Transportation for our pick up students.

Children should have fun. Every. Single. Visit.

Laying these expectations out clearly from the beginning would have been a big win for us. That’s a mistake that we aren’t going to repeat ever again.

2. Tutors Don’t have to be Technical People — They Have to Like Kids!

Initially, we tried to only hire people who are technical from the coding boot camps in the area. This worked out well at first, but in the end, they got better jobs, because they are trained in fields that make more money that we can offer.

A better approach that we found through a bit of trial and error was to look for people who have a passion and love for teaching children. If we find that, then we can easily teach them what is needed to train the kids. After all, if the kids can learn it, so can the teacher.

3. You Need to Sleep and Unwind

It happens to me every time I open a business. I stress about the opening. I stress about the product. I stress about the facility. I stay up all night trying to squeak out one last thought that is going to make my next day that much better.

A week or two after things start flowing though, I always realize that I should have just slept better and had a clearer head while I was at work. Clear-headedness aside, my family missed me. Other than my sons coming into the center, I barely saw them in the first few weeks of the center being open.

It’s important that new business owners remember to breath. Take things a day at a time. Engage with your business when you are at work and love your family focusing on them when you get home. Tomorrow will be there when you get back to work.

4. Pricing is More Elastic than Expected

This is going to be different in every market, but I didn’t expect there to be as wide of a range in opinions on pricing as there is in our first center. Some parents come in and don’t even ask about the pricing. They just know that their son or daughter loves games and this will make them happy. In affluent areas, this is more the norm that the exception so far.

Then, there are other parents, who are equally affluent, that want to know every detail of the pricing plans and how we break them out. When you get smarter parents bringing their kids in, you start to hear words like “opportunity cost” involved, which really blew my mind, as

I don’t get into those details usually.

In the end, cash flow was much better than expect in the first month because most parents opted to pay in full and save 10%. Your mileage may vary, but we got about 90% Paid in Full responses. We have since raised our prices to get a more recurring revenue model, but as of yet, we haven’t seen that have much of an affect on the sign up rate.

5. “Hiding Vegetables in a Birthday Cake” Works Great

Every parent has tried to do this. Your kid won’t eat his/her vegetables? Well, let’s put it in something he loves. He loves pizza? Well, we just got leprechaun pizza, made with spinach infused crusts. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.
So far, we are filling the want/need gap very well. Parents come in and know that their kids need to learn to code. Kids want to create their own video games. This combination is the core of what we are doing and is working out to be very effective. As of this writing, every students has had a fun day and all of our parents are loving seeing the games that the kids are building.

6. The Rewards Are Real

It’s a really rewarding experience overall to see the kids smile when their game works as they dreamed it would. Few things change a kid’s self-esteem and value than learning about something they love with people just like them. They light up and it’s infectious. All of the kids come over to play their game, asking questions about how they did it and what set of code did they use.

It’s a real social lift for these kids — some of which may not get a lot of that at school.

As the Code Ninjas brand spreads across the globe, we are always looking for positive, bright entrepreneurs to join our team and make our brand better.

If you think you can cut it, let’s talk about how you can open a code school for kids

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