So lets dig in and get right to the meat of this month's article. Many of you might be sitting back and reading this asking yourself "Why is this months column is about business and not about teaching, making lesson plans, or any of the other many important task teachers do to be successful?" Frankly, the answer's simple; we all want to earn more money and some just don't know how. Besides there's already loads of information available on the topics of class organization and I don't really think my input on the matter would be all that valuable.
Well, lets state the obvious, there are definitely some very different approaches to making money as English teachers in Thailand. Some teachers choose to work at language schools, government schools, private schools, and fulltime freelance. After studying all the different approaches in search for the "best" approach I have found that there are two common factors that determine whether you will succeed or fail using any or a combination of the approaches. Not surprisingly the keys to success in the TEFL industry are personal relationships and self-marketing.
You might be asking yourself, "So, what does this have to do with being a business owner?". The answer is "Mindset". There are two very different mindsets that most people have. I call them the Employee Mindset and the Business Owner Mindset.
Employee Mindset - You know the person that goes to work everyday complaining to everyone that will listen that they don't make enough money and that they are being taken advantage of. It's also the person that is usually the last person to get to work and the first person to leave. Finally, the person with an employee mindset usually does just enough lesson preparation to keep the students awake and to keep collecting a paycheck.
Business Owner Mindset - It is usually the exact opposite of the employee mindset. The people with the business owner mindset are usually the first people to work and are often one of the last people the leave. They do that little extra that takes their lessons from being good to being exceptional. Note: An easy way to tell if your lesson was exceptional is if when the students leave they are still talking about the lesson topic.
In Thailand, I have found that people quickly get labeled and categorized as either good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, good teachers or bad teachers, etc. Then once you are labeled it is a long and difficult process of changing your projected image. It is up to each of us to determine what type of mindset we want to have and get labeled with. In order to help you seriously consider the business owner mindset lets take a look at a few numbers (I didn't mention it but I am also a math teacher, so I like numbers).
A study conducted by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs in the United States found that every unhappy customer (student, boss, co-teacher, etc.) shares their grievances with at least nine other people, and that 13 percent of unhappy customers will tell 20 or more people. Unfortunately, satisfied customers tell only half as many people (five other people, on average) of their positive experience.
Lets use an example of the numbers to help get a solid understanding of how this works. For instance, I teach more then 700 students per week at a large government school outside of Bangkok. From the above study I know statistically that if a student has a good experience they will in turn tell approximately 5 to 10 people. However, if they have a bad experience they will usually tell 13 to 20 people or more. So at the end of the week I know I can either have 3500 - 5000 people hearing good things about me or I can have 9,000 to 14,000 people hearing bad things about me. Now if only 1% of the people (brothers, sisters, mother, fathers, uncles, aunts, friends, etc.) that my students share their experiences with are outside the school than I have just gained 35 to 50 potential customers per week. On the other hand if I do a bad job, with the same 1%, then I know that I have just lost 90 to 140 potential customers per week.
In other words, good news travels fast but bad news travels even faster. I also know that if I take an extra 30 minutes and prepare a little extra in order to do an extraordinary instead of a good job then just that may more people are going to know about it and thus it will be easier in the long run to make more money.
Good luck to all and happy marketing.