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“Taking the business online has allowed me to look at what has been working and what needs improvement”

“Taking the business online has allowed me to look at what has been working and what needs improvement”

Debbie Mitchell, principal of Razzamataz Carlisle and Razzamataz Dumfries, explains how she has worked smarter by utilising technology

Becoming a new mum in the pandemic…
2020 presented very different challenges for my business and for me personally. I had my baby boy, Alfie, in June so that was another reason for me to really think about how efficiently I was working and what I could do to improve it. When we went into the first lockdown, I used it as an opportunity to reflect on the ways we were working and adapt to do things differently. We very quickly pivoted our model to take the classes online but it wasn’t just the Zoom classes, we had a number of additional activities that would keep families engaged. During the last 12 months, I’ve definitely realised that there are smarter ways of working by utilising technology and being better at time management and delegating more where I need to. By taking the business online, it has allowed me to really look at what traditionally has been working and what needs improvement for when we do return to face-to-face teaching. I’ve got a lot of fresh ideas about driving the business forwards and how we can grow stronger than ever before.

Benefits of being part of a franchise…
Obviously, everyone has taken a financial hit during the pandemic but in terms of comradery, support and people coming together, it has never been better. The lockdowns and the challenges that they caused have shown us the strength of the franchise network and how our head office really stepped up and supported us from day one. Although this was an overhaul that none of us expected, I believe that many in our franchise network will come out of it in a better position than before because of the new and innovative ways that we have been shown to work. 

Adapting to changing needs…
We were in a fortunate position in that we were able to take our classes online but we also looked at other ways that we could utilise technology. Many of these processes have been much more efficient for us and our customers. We’ve been able to communicate with customers in a more efficient manner and streamline our recruitment and enrolment process by going almost entirely paperless. All enrolment is via the website and once children become our students we can share online resources via dropbox, which has eliminated the need for paper handouts. On a personal level, by hiring an assistant principal, I’ve been able to continue to manage the business and be a new mum. In fact, I’m about to take over another territory at Dumfries, which is not something I could have done without this support.

Support you should expect from your franchisor…
There was a lot in terms of training, online sessions with coaches and experts and one-to-one support but the most valuable was the way they kept on top of the regulations and all the government guidelines. When these changed all the time and when the legislation was a little hazy in terms of what we could and could not do, it was very reassuring to know that they were supporting us to not fall into any of the gaps. This in turn made us confident that we were operating in a COVID-secure way and we could communicate that message positively to our customers.

A network of like-minded individuals…
Over the last six months, our MD Denise launched the Mastermind Group for those in the network committed to moving their business forwards. We look at new initiatives that we can use for the entire network and how they can benefit individual franchisees and the franchise business as a whole. Being in this group has allowed me to communicate and liaise regularly with top performers and like-minded people in the network who want to innovate and progress at the same rate. It is lovely to speak to other franchisees, learn from them and just bounce ideas around. We keep pushing each other out of our comfort zones and explore ways to take Razzamataz to the next level providing even more great opportunities for principals, staff and students.

The home-life work juggle…
It’s always been a juggle running your own business and trying to keep work and home life separated but now pretty much everyone understands because most people are working from home. Now more than ever before, my partner sees now how much I’m trying to juggle as he’s also working from home. He fully supports me in pushing the business forward, which has enabled me to take over my second franchise territory.

Importance of time management…
The last 12 months have made it very clear how important time management and structuring your working week is. Before having my baby and the challenges that have come from the pandemic, I could pick and choose what I wanted to focus on in my business and work however many hours I wanted to. I now set my hours and max out the time I have by working on the most important tasks first and then delegating where I need to.

Adapting to technology…
There are quite a few elements of this new way of working that we will retain because it saves both us and the customer time. We will keep all the video tours online rather than spending time on a Saturday walking people around the school, which takes me away from other important jobs. We have also decided to keep one of our classes going online, which makes sense financially and practically for all involved. We shall also keep having our parent meetings via Zoom rather than trying to bring everyone together, which in the past has been difficult to organise. I’m also finding that the communication between our staff members is so much better. It is much easier to jump onto a Zoom call rather than sending dozens of emails so this is something that we shall be continuing in the future.

Joining Razzamataz Theatre Schools…
I believe that with everything that happened in the last year, if I’d not been part of the Razzamataz franchise network, my business wouldn’t have survived. Having a baby and with all the changes and uncertainty, I think I would have been forced to look for another career because it would have been too overwhelming for me to have coped with it on my own. Having the franchisor and the other franchisees living and breathing the same thing as you day in and day out has been invaluable.

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