Zoe founded BE School in 2014 after moving to Mexico City following several years of English teaching. The main focus of BE School is to offer lessons in business English to build confidence and achieve career growth with an international outlook.
The first year of running BE School in Mexico City was ‘make or break’ between Zoe focusing fully on the business and and living back in the UK with a new-born baby. However, her entrepreneurial journey didn’t truly begin until one of her tutee’s, now her business partner, recommended that she set up an English business school. And so, in 2014, Zoe began bringing other staff onto the team, and she has since grown it to have more than 40 teachers on board.
Quality vs Culture
For Zoe, ‘company culture is an ongoing area to navigate’.
Adopting a more flexible way of working functioned well at an early stage for BE School, but as they scaled, they found things became more complicated, causing them to ‘lose the way that they first started operating’. It was a further challenge to keep the students and teachers engaged in the community and go beyond just ‘giving lessons’. Zoe realised that a solid and active community was equally as important to branding as the engagement amongst students and teachers. This continues to be a landscape that BE school has to navigate through a trial and error process.
Initially, teachers were recruited from all teaching backgrounds and, whilst Zoe was remotely working, she adopted a trust based approach towards different teaching styles. However, as BE School has scaled, Zoe has introduced interviews and training for teachers, alongside the standardisation of classes to ensure she can maintain the quality across her team.
Growing a Team
With 40 teachers plus managers, accountants and social media staff, BE School has become quite a large team in a relatively short space of times. This means that Zoe now has the pressure of ‘knowing that employees are counting on her’ which at times feels like a ‘massive stress’.
With the company reliant on tutees paying up for their lessons on time in order to pay their teaching staff, there have been times when Zoe has had to sit at her computer all day, chasing people for payments which didn’t come. When all of the teachers juggle a number of jobs, telling them about late payments is a difficult thing to do.
One of the most important things Zoe is continuing to learn is that cash flow is key. “Not paying people on time is not an acceptable way to run a business” and due to to not having an accounting department, it has become vital to educate herself on finances and Cash Flow Cycles.
As the business has evolved so has the way that Zoe copes with the stress of managing a growing team. Instead of focusing on areas she has no control over, she now puts her energy into areas she can control, such as saving money for the business.
Moving forward, there are also new strategies that Zoe would like to consider for BE School, such as moving to a subscription model for online tuition to reduce the stress of late payments.
Ultimately, in the long-run, Zoe would love to scale out to reach more of Mexico City and potentially even become a global online teaching hub. For now though, she’s motivated to keep growing BE School in order to continue supporting the staff who are at the centre of her business.
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Written by Olivia Brooks