When the business office of a school is led by a Consultative Business Officer, excellence will be achieved. Nancy Greene is another great example. She is the Chief Finance and Operations Officer at the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. Through her leadership on their sprawling campus and in many different professional organizations (NBOA, FCIS, etc.) across the country, Nancy has distinguished herself as a talented role model.
A few days ago I had the privilege of interviewing Nancy regarding her role in the business office, focusing on how she cultivates productive relationships with the various administrators and especially with the admissions office.
Q: What is your favorite advice to share with school administrators?
Remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint. Know the culture you're trying to create there in the school and understand that your impact will be predicated on your ability to build and sustain relationships. If you don't know your culture and community, it's going to be really challenging to be successful. Don't try to do too much too fast.
Be thoughtful about what you want to achieve, and take advantage of the low hanging fruit that doesn't require conflict and risk. Build trust and confidence through shorter-term plans so they will be willing to take on harder projects.
Make time to get to know your people outside of what they do at work (family, children, passions, etc.), along with clearly appreciating how they contribute to the school.
Q: What do you do to create a healthy, collaborative relationship with your admissions office?
That is a key role for us and that relationship has to be attended to especially well. We help the admissions office with our analytic skills, our ability to build spreadsheets, and our capacity to evaluate the data. They, on the other hand, give us feedback on how we can help them be more effective.
I spend a lot of time with my admission director, collaborating on such things as financial aid, marketing, and communications. We joke that sometimes we're "work spouses," because we spend so much time together. We even argue like that, sometimes, but we work with families together to achieve our respective goals and the larger mission. Candid information is shared regarding family situations in order to improve our collective ability to serve them.
The biggest thing for us is working together on retention because it's much easier to keep families who are already here rather than constantly having to going out and recruit new families. We'll offer suggestions for improvement, and sometimes they like the feedback and sometimes they don't.
We work together on the budget, too, starting fresh each year to ensure wise decisions. Using a team approach to determine the forecasts for enrollment helps us be more accurate. We consider attrition and other data at each grade level so that we are constantly learning and improving.
Q: How do you find time to be a Consultative Business Officer?
First, you have to do a paradigm shift to prioritize relationships. It's ok to spend the time on those soft skills and connecting with people. Second, stop owning everything. Bring people into your processes and work collaboratively. Everyone plays a role and can make a valuable contribution. Risk management, for example, is something that everyone must contribute to--which requires broad support and training.
Q: What are some of your tips for dealing with difficult parents?
Each situation is different, but money and children tend to bring out emotional reactions. So the business office is highly likely to deal with both, and things get really tough when athletics is added to the mix. The goal is to "kill them with kindness" in order to move the relationship forward. Sometimes the situation has to be escalated and occasionally restrictions have to be implemented, but we hope not.