Monthly Archives: March 2014

“We have a business to run!” – And a family to raise!

I actually took my Organizer with me into the delivery room when I was about to give birth to my first child. I had no idea. I knew that I would have to be away from our business for some days – and it was the first time I was going to do that too.

 

My doctor was in shock at the sight of a woman in labor with an Organizer but we worked very well together. Excellent teamwork!

The next day, I was overwhelmed; by having our first child and by missing our business. So I did open the Organizer that very next day to make sure that everything was running well. A bank installment had to urgently be paid on that day and I immediately spoiled my husband’s first moments of fatherhood by sending him to make the payment. As soon as he informed me that it was done and over with, I could peacefully concentrate on our daughter. You experience this very often when running a business.

Again, my trusty Guardian Angels, had helped throughout my pregnancy. In so many ways. Even by helping recruit new teachers as for the first time I had decided to reduce my working hours.

Many things were happening to me for the first time:

– For the first time I became a mother;

– For the first time I was absent from our business for three consecutive weeks;

– For the first time after nine consecutive years I made the decision to reduce my working hours on weekends. I wanted to spend time with my child. Oh, those Sundays. A full schedule from 10am to 10pm. It took me approximately two years to become accustomed to NOT working on Sundays.

– For the first time I had reached levels of such trust with my colleagues that I felt very comfortable being away from the business. They knew, however, that whatever they needed, I was there for them.

Many things were adjusted so that I could smoothly and happily combine being a parent and a businessperson:

– We had made sure to have our apartment very close to our school. Literally, a three-minute walk that would end up being much longer due to all the people we would greet and talk to on our way. This way I could easily visit my daughter and she could just as easily visit us. Frequently. That is what we wanted.

– When we renovated the school, we took the opportunity to create a playroom both for our very young students and for my own child. So that she could be just next door while I was working.

– I managed to nurse her for seven months which was a great accomplishment for us under the busy circumstances.

– Some of our teachers would also have fun lessons with her. How happy I was to be able to raise my child in such a social and educational environment.

– As I had the incredible support of my whole family, I was also able to continue attending the seminars and workshops whether they were local or not.

– I grasped the great opportunity to learn more about my profession while studying about my child. Bilingualism, Multilingualism, Childhood development.

Many things showed me that I love being a businessperson while being a parent:

– When our second child was born, we moved to Zug. I made the decision to pause my active professional life and devote myself to encouraging our family’s adjustment to our new environment and all the changes that came with it. I continued my professional development from home. It was not long before I accepted the first business proposal to be project manager of a corporate multilingual childcare center. I said ‘Yes!’ so easily. So willingly. And I could do it from home which made it even more positive.

– Not long after that project was complete, I was asked to become Interim Manager at an international Business Center. I would be responsible for Customer Relations and Sales. Well, how could I say ‘No’ to that? Clients are the Saints of a business in my book. For this period, my father came to Zug and we knew that both our children were in the safest of hands.

– Having the momentum of the previous two Swiss business encounters, I swept Vicky off her feet (who in the meantime was working unbelievably hard) to continue where we had stopped off. The Loras Network was born. And here we are now, again with homes very close to our new facilities so as to enjoy the best of both worlds.

I did not start being professionally active again because I got bored at home. A parent who is at home with their children is among the busiest people on Earth. My children’s pediatrician has a sign on her door that writes: “You have not worked full-time until you have become a parent.” Up to a point, the sign is true. But when you have had the chance to experience both professional life and parenthood to the fullest of their capacities and to extremes, in some cases, as I have, then you just have got to love it to be able to handle it.

And I love both.

It is Sunday and I am working so I guess old habits die hard. At least this time I did it from home, seated between my two sleeping children while playing classical music in the background as a lullaby.

Thank you.

This is how I was inspired to write this post tonight:

My children were playing together and created their very first business card tonight, leaving us speechless. I present it to you.

Maggie and Nicholas' first Business Card

Maggie and Nicholas’ first Business Card

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“We have a business to run!” – Our Services

Our services – Our rituals:

“So tell us, Mrs Loras, why do you have so many invoices for bottled water purchases?” asked the tax inspector upon visiting and investigating The Loras Academy in Ioannina, Greece. “Just like I wouldn’t want my children to drink bathroom water anywhere, that is why we serve clean bottled water to our students.” You are probably shocked by the question I was asked but I must tell you that the tax inspector was actually shocked by the answer.

In some people’s minds, spending time and money on “unnecessary” elements while running a business is wrong. We support the exact opposite.

Our young clients have always been treated as if they were our own children and the adult clients with the respect we would like ourselves to be treated as well. So what is shocking about that? The fact that our services go a step further? The fact that we respect our clients?

Due to the fact that we were based in downtown Ioannina and later on downtown Zug, we offered to wait for some of our young students downstairs a few minutes before the lesson and also safely return them downstairs to their parents in order to relieve the clients of the extra stress. This way we have also added an extra benefit to our lessons and business. The hearts of cities have their benefits but also their stressful attributes like occupied parking spaces and traffic issues. This, however, gives us the chance to greet the clients and briefly remark on the productivity of that day. This gives us the chance to show our clients that we care about them beyond the clientele relationship that we have.

We have been slightly or greatly deprived of our breaks for such services. You have to love it to be able to handle it! You do not get paid extra for these services. You have to love it to be able to handle it! You might have to help out a colleague who has a lesson directly after the previous one… and they might not be able, for practical reasons, to do exactly the same for you. You have to love it to be able to handle it! You might have to serve a glass of water or cup of tea and coffee to your clients or colleagues. You have to love it to be able to handle it! You might have to give a small surprise to a birthday child or a Lost Tooth Award to your young ones. You know, just for that extra smile involved! You have to love it to be able to handle it! You may have to attend professional and educational workshops and seminars to keep up with examination developments and to learn more and more about your profession. At your own personal expense. You have to love it to be able to handle it! You may have to renovate when the time is right while offering clean and safe facilities along with a new and pleasant environment for everyone involved. You have to love it to be able to handle it!

“And what’s in it for me, Mrs Loras? I could just go on, only teaching English, saving myself valuable time and money while enjoying all my breaks and let my secretary do all the rest”. I would suggest that this person need not worry about their clients at all. They will be in good hands with us.

I love being a generous and conscientious citizen, a respectful teacher and parent, a professional and facilitating business person. Everyone desires and deserves respect.

Thank you.

Help out your clients by adding all nearby parking spaces to your website.

Help out your clients by adding all nearby parking spaces to your website.

“We have a business to run!” – Our Team

And how can your Saints be happy if your Angels are not happy, too!

Our Angels in business, our Guardian Angels in fact, have always been the colleagues we have been working with. Yes, in the business world they would be called employees, but not in our business world. They are our trusted, reliable, highly-established colleagues. They have been working WITH US instead of FOR US. We have entrusted them with our precious clients and they have respected and appreciated that to a level hopefully many other businesses have experienced the way we have.

It is a big responsibility choosing the right person to work with. The path we have always followed (and we have been very lucky to experience a booming business that needed additional colleagues several times) is that of sharing the same vision. Whenever conducting an interview, we would mainly describe the way our business worked, the visions and priorities we had and of course, how it had all started. From the other party’s reactions and comments, we would easily realize if our business, and up to a point, personal chemistry, matched. There were basic technicalities that were very important as far as the qualifications were concerned, and basic qualities in their personality such as politeness and punctuality, a great sense of humor and a very positive attitude.

But then, it was up to the business to make sure that our Guardian Angels were fairly and professionally treated; were kindly and lovingly blended into our business family. We have been in the position of a person working in the interests of a school that did not belong to us. So we held on to all those moments, and made sure that they felt as if our school DID belong to them.

We did our very best:

Individual well-organized and equipped offices; User-friendly methodology with full communication and discussion with us in the event of complications or different preferences on behalf of our clients; Monthly meetings but also anytime-meetings to discuss … ANYTHING and EVERYTHING; Constant modifications based on their invaluable feedback but also the clients’ feedback. Finally, my personal favourite: Fun but informative lockers for each employee. A locker in which they have discovered a wide range of information throughout the years: from examination or schedule changes, to both my pregnancies.

And those are the moments you truly cherish your Guardian Angels. When our relationship had reached a point of such mutual respect and compassion; when we had achieved such high levels of professionalism and democracy; when we cared for, protected and stood up for each other. Without ruining the balances among colleagues while making sure our clients were never disrupted.

No! We had not spoilt them one bit. They deserved every single element offered and deserved so much more. We have had excellent teamwork. Stunning collaboration. Outstanding results. It was not smooth or perfect from the day our very first colleague joined us. But we learned a lot along the way and never forgot one single lesson.

Many years ago when the first problem with a colleague occurred, I made absolutely sure none of the other colleagues were disrupted. I was pregnant to Maggie, my first child then. When a new teacher arrived to take the place of the one that had left, Helen, a long-term Guardian Angel said: “How did you do that? We did not have a clue that something was wrong.” My answer to you now Helen is because we loved you and our school, and never wanted anything to ruin it.

Our moblie phones and email accounts were available to our colleagues 24/7. They knew they could feel comfortable informing us on a development or concern, something they had forgotten to mention at school or just a quick joke to add a happy ending to a long day. We would all arrive way before work began and would stay even after work had ended.

All the above refer to the team we created at The Loras Academy in Ioannina, Greece. At The Loras Network in Zug, Switzerland it is just Vicky and me for now. The unbelievable group of Angels that we were honoured to have met, especially before our finale in Ioannina, is like a dream come true for us. I hope they feel the same. It took me a while to exit my mourning phase and find the braveness to maintain contact with them. I apologise to them for that.

Thank you LAMBRINI, HELEN, CHRISSIE, MELANIE, REA, ALEXANDRA, MELINA, JAHNAVI, LISA, DIMITRA, TINA, ANASTASIA, ANDREW, ANGELA, JOANNA and my very own VICKY and CHRISTINE LORAS.

Even before entering, you could hear us laughing with joy!

Even before entering, you could hear us laughing with joy!

“We have a business to run!” – Our Clients

And now I shall introduce you to a part of my Business Religion: Our Clients are our Saints.

Yes, I have always done and always do my very best for them! Yes, they are our students but due to the business format of our Language Schools, they have simultaneously been our clients. I feel no ethical problem naming our students as clients because in the twenty-two years that I have been teaching while running our own businesses :

Not once have we sold them anything that was just beneficial for the business.

Not once have we thought of cheating them.

Not once have we recommended anything that we could not personally guarantee.

Our reputation as a family and business have never been compromised; even though, we have been balancing a school and a business. There have been numerous occasions that I have acted solely in the benefit of the client, ignoring the negative financial impact on the business.

There are constantly cases that the services offered on our behalf, surpass the fee paid on behalf of the clients and never the other way around.

There are instances that you are faced with incredibly profitable opportunities that are in contrast with your personal and professional ethics and we have declined such offers.

Thanks to our Saints, our family has a roof over our head, food on our tables, clothes on our backs.

Thanks to our Saints, we have become an eagerly grateful human beings.

Thanks to our Saints, my children are proud of us.

And when your Saints, express their unconditional loyalty to you even after years have passed by since your last professional encounter; when your Saints have become a part of your personal life because you allowed them to and they wanted to; when your Saints are always your Saints no matter what has happened in a course of a lifetime; when your little Saints have turned into fully – grown and achieved adult Saints and you feel the I way I feel while writing this hymn in their honor…

then you must be doing something right while you are off to run your business!

Thank you.

Thank You Card from The Loras Network, Switzerland. An idea continued from The Loras Academy, Greece.

Thank You Card from The Loras Network, Switzerland. An idea continued from The Loras Academy, Greece.

“We have a business to run!” – You’ve got to love it to be able to handle it!

I would like to share the anguish and success, the success and the anguish of entrepreneurs.

“We have a business to run!” How I love saying that in my most cheerful, dynamic and ambitious tone of voice. I love being an entrepreneur in education for so many reasons. On both a personal and professional basis, you are offering while watching (and sometimes helping) children grow; you are assisting an adult add an extra qualification to his professional profile (and thus contributing to his professional development and progress); whether a parent, or a parent-to-be, a relative to a child, or godparent, you are contributing to the child’s upbringing in such an invaluable way.

And all the above are offered by every single educator working in the private or public sector.

When owning your own Language School, however, you truly do have a “business to run”. And believe me when I say that ” You’ ve got to LOVE it, to be able to handle it”. I personally thrive upon it. I have been through every single possible stage and form an entrepreneur can experience. Freelance, employee status, volunteer status and business start-up. I cannot imagine myself doing it any other way. It suits me and yes; I LOVE IT! Even as a child and throughout my life, I have always admired our relatives in Canada and in Greece who had achieved to set up and grow their own businesses.

Despite the anguish, the tight financial corners you will be put into, the ruthless schedule of self-employment, the sleepless nights about how to maintain what you have built, the lost appetite over how to find an immediate solution to an urgent matter while not affecting clients, … and I would have to go on for twenty-two years with the rest.

This first chapter of the experiences of a business owner is all about the LOVE OF IT! If I had not become a language school owner initially, I do not know what else I would have become, but for sure, no doubt about it, I would be running a business. I love it and live it so intensely that I sometimes feel that unintentionally, I have already influenced my children in that direction. Unless it is in the genes!

Thank you.

Loras Academy 8

Born and raised in an educational business environment