My SBM Life Brian Herbert

What’s your job title and the name of your school?

School Business and Resources Manager. Ferrars Junior School.

How long have you been an SBM?

I have been an SBM for the past 9 years.

What was your path to SBM?

I worked in the newspaper industry for 25 years, managing various teams of people from the age of 23. I then ran a circumcision clinic for 6 months before landing my SBM role, which was a ball. There’s not much I don’t know about the male appendage!

How would you describe the role of an SBM?

Like all SBM’s, the role is extremely varied and I get involved in all aspects of school life.

What are the 5 top key elements of your role?

Finance, Premises, HR, H&S and most importantly, people!

What characteristics do you believe make for a Smart SBM?

Think outside the box, always. Don’t get stressed about what needs to be done, nothing is important enough to affect your own wellbeing and don’t overcomplicate things, be flexible, be nice to people no matter what their role is and always have an open door.

Why do schools need an SBM?

Big question. A good SBM will save you money and hopefully generate a little along the way. They also give the headteacher a comfort blanket on anything that isn’t ‘teachy’…

Have you ever reached the bottom of your to-do list?

Ha ha.. never in the 9 years of doing the job, and I don’t worry about it either. 

What’s your top tip for saving time at work?

People are your best resource. Have confidence in those around you and don’t micromanage.

What’s your top tip for saving your school money?

Catering. If you do nothing else look at your catering provision. I did this 3 years ago and have been banging on about it ever since. We are a group of four schools, all independent from each other, and we go under the brand of Food Counts in Schools. Believe me when I say this, you will save thousands upon thousands, especially if you are a primary with Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM).

What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to procurement?

Being able to compare prices on the smaller things, and feeling like I’m being fleeced when quotes are sought. 

Most SBMs we meet say that networking is a key to the role – what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from one of your SBM peers?

Everyone I meet adds to my knowledge in some way.

Tell us about an hour of your day today

The first hour is the most hectic. SLT briefing before the daily staff briefing starts my day off, then onto solving any issues that there may be, which could be an email set up or foxes doing their business in the playground. Again.

What’s the last thing, professionally, that surprised you?

How many schools don’t engage with the Chamber of Commerce. I have met so many good business people, who have done some great things in school with the children. And it’s a good source of governors too! Get your school name about and you will reap the dividends.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a SBM?

The impact you can have on a school IF, and it’s a huge IF, you are allowed to spread your wings and be creative. SBM’s think differently, use them wisely and you will have a very loyal member of staff. And your SLT will be a livelier place with a different opinion.

SBM, SBP or SBL – where do you stand on the title?

No preference really, I am what I am and you can call me whatever you like. I’ve been called far worse!

How do you see the role of SBM within the SLT?

Massive. SLT isn’t just for ‘educationalists’. In my experience, every conversation within an SLT has a financial aspect to it, and I can give a totally different perspective on most things. This hasn’t always gone down well though J. I know of some SBM’s that aren’t on SLT and to me that is a total waste of resource.

How important do you think the head teacher / SBM relationship is?

Hugely important. To be honest you can’t operate effectively if you don’t get along.

What do you think is the key to a good head teacher / SBM relationship?

If the trust isn’t there you may as well go and drive a bus.

What advice would you give to someone new coming into an SBM role?

Don’t be phased by it. There are a lot of aspects to the role but don’t get hung up on any of them. Enjoy it and immerse yourself into school life.

How do you handle a bad day at the office?

I find gin always seems to help. It must be medicinal in some way.

What do you do to de-stress after a long day at school?

I chill out with my wife, who is also an SBM at another local school. We’ve grown up together over the past 35 years, so she totally understands me. Tea and a nice sandwich always goes down well.

If you have one, tell us about your blog/book?

I don’t have either, although I do contribute occasionally on Twitter and have had a few of my ramblings published in education magazines.