Tuition Business Lesson #2: Invest Time and Energy In Communication

Our team members were all busy. Three partners were still running the original centre fully hands-on, a partner Chris still had his full time job, while I had to juggle adjunct lecturing and my own online tutoring practice.

Communicating Through WhatsApp Chat Group

As arranging meetings was tough, most communication was done through a WhatsApp chat group, even important or delicate ones which deserved brainstorming and in-depth discussions.

Discussing business through WhatsApp chat worked fine, if all we need to convey was facts and figures. Things like who signed up for what, what was the fees collected, etc. It was a terrible idea when we wanted to convey any emotions. As a rule of thumb, text messages are cold and formal. Only very skilled communicators can use it to express their feelings quite accurately.

A few times, jests were misunderstood, and insensitive remarks in the chat group caused me real hurt. Once I made a simple mistake a few times, and I apologized in the chat group. Bruce sent a meme which said, “Take a glass bowl and smash it. Now pick up the pieces, and tell the glass bowl that you are sorry.” I wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell me, but it sure made me feel like crap. I didn’t clarify on the chat because I just didn’t see how it would turn out well. Perhaps if we could just pick up the phone and talk to each other, Bruce would have felt how sorry I was, and I could have a better sense of whether he was being sarcastic, or just trying to share some internet wisdom.

The Need To Meet

On a few occasions, when I asked for meetings to find out how the business was doing, I was told to clarify WHY we needed to meet. I felt indignant, but did not know how to articulate my thoughts and feelings. At another level, I felt that I was insecure, and chided myself for it. I didn’t understand why I felt such an urge to have more regular meeting.

Thinking back now, while I see that we need agendas for meetings, I also felt that informal meet ups to just talk about each others’ concerns and feelings about the business were totally valid and necessary. I will make sure that my future teams make every effort to make time for formal and informal meetings.

Three out of the five partners, Steve, Bruce, Chad, also worked closely together in the original tuition center. The other two partners are myself and Chris, and the team only met once a month in the first few months, and once a few months towards the end. This formed a curious dynamics of an Inner Circle and an Outer Circle. I never verified it, but I believe that there must have been many discussions and near decisions about the business amongst the Inner Circle partners. As someone from the Outer Circle, I felt uninformed, ostracised and anxious. It was not healthy for teamwork.

Learning Point

In my next venture, my partner and I made it a priority to over-communicate. We understood that each had a busy schedule, but we made it a rule to meet at least once a week, online or offline, to discuss on business.

Sometimes when a message from my partner cause me to have some strong feelings, I would stop myself from replying the message. Instead I would ask to have a call later. In that way I allowed myself time to cool down, and through a phone call we could communicate much more clearly.

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