The Essential Role of the Business Manager at Your School
Vol. 16 No. 5
An efficient and effective Business Office is critical to your school’s success. Whether you’re a new Business Manager or a school leader looking to add or refine this position within your organizational structure, here are some recommendations for the responsibilities of the Business Manager in a private-independent school.
The Business Manager and the Board
The Business Manager should attend all Board meetings. He or she should serve on all committees that relate to the responsibilities of the Business Office, including facilities, finance, endowment, and personnel.
The Business Manager should work to cultivate relationships with Trustees, creating mutual trust when it comes to school decisions. When these relationships are strong, Trustees rely on the Business Manager’s advice to approve the delegation of routine investments, purchases, and check signing.
The Business Manager and the School
The Business Manager’s bottom-line perspective is a vital resource to both the School Head and the Board. This view is especially necessary when it comes to the budgeting process. The Business Manager focuses on budgeting forward. This means that, rather than looking at last year’s numbers to create a new budget, ask what it will take to deliver the school’s mission next year. Make the budget the force behind the school’s progress.
The Business Manager is also responsible for financial analysis and accounting, compliance with government regulations, cost-effective purchasing, personnel oversight, knowledge of food and transportation services, competence in facilities management, and legal awareness.
The Business Manager and the Mission
The Business Manager has a real opportunity to be a proactive change agent when it comes to the school’s strategic financial plan (SFP) and long-term vision. As a core member of the team tasked with creating the strategic financial plan—along with the School Head, Board of Trustees, and Finance Committee Chair—the Business Manager helps innovate while ensuring the school is not putting itself at risk.
The Business Manager can help structure the SFP to cover all basic expenses with hard income (such as that received through tuition and fees) and ensure cash reserves grow accordingly. These elements are monumental in transforming a school’s position from precarious to stable. The Business Manager can also allocate funds for professional development, infrastructure, and new programs to help support the school’s mission and move it forward.
If you’re a school leader and looking to hire a Business Manager, be aware that it can be difficult to find someone with credentials in every area of school business management. Some applicants may come from similar backgrounds—such as another school, college, or hospital—but you should also consider applicants with expertise in some of the areas the Business Office manages. If you bring one of those applicants onboard, provide additional training, especially in private-independent school specific areas, such as legalities and nonprofit accounting.
To help Business Officers who are new to their positions or new to private-independent schools, ISM offers a workshop that explores Effective Business and Operations Leadership: The First Five Years during its 2018 Summer Institute. This workshop, taking place June 25–29 in Wilmington, DE, will help new or less expereinced Business Officers learn what it takes to be successful in their first five years in private-independent schools. Learn more here.
Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 14 No. 1 Advice for New Business Managers
The Source for Business and Operations Vol. 15 No. 2 10 Reasons You Were Meant to Be a Business Manager