Over the last six months, the team at Hope Education has been reviewing its place in the Educational Supplies market place, contemplating the changes that schools have been facing over the last few years.
Time and money have become finite resources. Budgets have been consistently cut and schools have become time poor. They’ve had to reduce overheads and they’ve had to dilute the resources and support that might have saved them time.
So, last year we set ourselves a challenge to give schools back these two key commodities – time and money. We decided to invest our time in understanding the sector, as well as millions of pounds to reduce the prices of our best-selling products by 30%, and we redeveloped our offer. We realised that procurement systems within schools are the critical element in making savings happen.
We also realised that as a supplier to schools, we needed to adapt and change our offering, as well as invest time in understanding the sector.
We embarked on a journey to redevelop our website and to create additional digital solutions that would improve the purchasing experience for customers. Our new Smart Ordering offer was born.
Smart Ordering is a package of functionality and tools that can transform a school’s office with a smarter way of purchasing. We have adapted website functionality from the retail sector – such as price comparisons, switch and save, share my basket – to suit the education sector, and we have combined this with our B2B knowledge to provide audit trails and workflow functionality. You can read about it HERE
Along the way on our Smart Ordering journey we met lots of SBMs, and we got a lot more than we bargained for.
We took the time to understand their world and learnt that the role of a School Business Manager is a varied and often misunderstood one.
We not only learnt just how schools operate, but also how challenging the role of an SBM can be. It became clear that, if we want to succeed in saving schools time and money, we need to tune into the needs of SBMs because they are the ones managing everything in schools outside of the teaching.
We found that SBMs carry a lot of weight on their shoulders and that they are ‘unsung heroes’ – juggling management duties, head teachers, teachers, parents, catching hens and unblocking toilets, and all while running a million pound plus budget!
However, many SBMs still feel quite isolated – even though they’re part of the management team they still feel they haven’t got the support network that a teacher might have. In fact, most rely on each other and SBM networks for support and advice.
We learnt that schools spend an incredible amount of time comparing prices across suppliers, collating handwritten lists from teachers and phoning through orders – and it’s SBMs that do this while also being the first port of call when anything goes wrong.
We were told that one of an SBMs greatest challenges is saving 10% of their budgets each year. We soon realised that we had a role to play in helping them to achieve this, by not only ensuring they make savings on the products they procure through us, but also by creating time-saving solutions. If we could give them several hours a week back, they could, for example, negotiate their big utilities contracts in that time. Imagine what you could do with three or four hours extra per week. So, we needed to do more than just sell educational supplies; we needed to prioritise and focus on creating solutions to give them time back. Smart Ordering does exactly this, saving SBMs around an hour a day.
Most importantly, we found that as a supplier, Hope Education really needs to start to supporting SBMs. In fact, all suppliers need to start supporting them, and SBMs need to start pushing back and demanding more of suppliers like us.
Then, as we set out to launch our new Smart Ordering solution to the SBM masses, it was clear that we needed some real SBMs to front our campaign. We wanted to put SBMs at the heart of Smart Ordering as, ultimately, the benefits meet their personal objective of finding new ways to make their schools run more efficiently year on year.
So, we put a call out across Twitter and the SBM networks, looking for superhero SBMs to star in our marketing campaign. Ann, Michelle, Andy, Michelle and Angela put their hats in the ring and we had found our stars.
While shooting the superhero SBMs our adverts, we also had some time to chat to them about their #SBMLife. Here’s what they told us: