Welcome to an update with my friends Julia Kossowska and Sam Lowe, who run Magical Maths Club Birmingham. I first interviewed them in the summer of 2015 and then updated in November 2016 – it’s my fault that I’ve got a bit out of sync with publishing these, they are very efficient and organised! When I asked Sam and Julia where they wanted to be in a year’s time, they said, “Growing steadily and also offering some options for schools to book us in directly.” It’s time to see how they’re getting on …
Hello again, Julia and Sam! Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
We are – more or less. Just to recap – we are franchisees running Magical Maths Clubs in Birmingham. These are maths after-school clubs designed to give children very positive experiences of maths. They come to the clubs and the aim is that they will really enjoy the experience but also do some learning.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
We certainly have a lot less change than some of the other people we have read about in this interview series. Perhaps that is one of the advantages of being a franchisee. A lot of work has gone on in the background to work out a system that works.
Michael Gerber has written a number of books about the importance of systemising your business and one that we studied quite carefully this year is The E-myth Revisited. Although we already had good systems in place this book, which is an easy read, was useful in revisiting our thinking about the different roles that must be covered in any business, whether you are running a business on your own or have a whole team. If you haven’t read any books by Michael Gerber I do recommend this one. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity.
As franchisees, we are allowed and indeed encouraged to spot small opportunities to make improvements, and some of the best meetings we have is when some of the franchisees get together with the franchisors and their team, and share examples of how systems, sales processes, relationships, clubs and games, have been made more effective. Such incremental changes/marginal gains to how we work have made a huge difference to our overall effectiveness.
If you are interested in the importance of marginal gains to ultimate success you might want to take a look at this article and listen to this related interview – The 1% Factor Interview with Dave Brailsford GB Cycling Performance Director.
So what sort of improvements have we made? Many but the ones that come to mind immediately are to do with how we communicate with our customers, e.g we know what we tell each person at which part of the customer journey, and improvements to the children’s activities so that each one feels exciting for a child of any age to take part in. This might seem obvious but to find smaller elements that we might have otherwise missed we spent time picturing ourselves as our customers interacting with us and how it would feel for them. It was surprising how useful this exercise was and we will return to it.
What have you learned?
Obviously we learn from operating the business but because we are visiting schools regularly we have travel time that we can use as extra opportunities for learning from audio books and podcasts. This is a great way to use what could be seen as disadvantage, as a positive.
We both enjoy reading. Another of Julia’s favourite books this year, was Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone: “When I picked up this book I thought it was be all about trying to have coffee or lunch with influential individuals so they would send business your way. It is very much more than that. It encourages you to build genuine relationships over a lifetime and also give careful consideration to how you can give back to your communities.”
We have chosen to work in a field which is all about service, and we have both volunteered in many different ways over the years, so in some ways we don’t need a book to tell of the satisfaction that this brings or the importance of making deep friendships which go back many years. But this is an inspiring book and well-worth reading.
What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
There hasn’t been anything major that would have made a big difference.
Incremental learning, analysing what we are doing, making small changes and always looking for improvements seems to work well for us.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Nothing that anyone would find surprising but as Keith Ferazzi says look for people to serve and look to work with people who like to serve.
Again, we can’t speak too highly of our staff, who often go beyond what is asked for. When looking for new staff we have certain requirements but the most important of these is enthusiasm and a desire to serve.
And … where do you see yourselves and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Our Franchisor has some great plans in place for developing our business – and we look forward to being able to share this when there is more news!
I really love the way that Julia and Sam are always looking to keep learning and finding new tips and techniques to refine their business model, along with using the support gained from operating within a franchise.
You can find the main Magical Maths Club Birmingham website here: https://magicalmathsclub.com/birmingham
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.