Building Influence and Leadership with Your School's Business Officer

Building Influence and Leadership with Your School's Business Officer

As issues of enrollment management, affordability, financial planning, and financial aid dominate discussions at the governance level, two key stakeholders—the admission leader and business officer—must respond in harmony. However, it is more likely that these two important roles have not been closely aligned for success given daily responsibilities, historical silos, and lack of cross-team integration and strategy building. Given the high stakes (institutional enrollment success), it is critical to change current realities and to build anew the partnership between the two organizational centers.

Building Influence

According to Jeff Shields, Executive Director of the National Business Officer’s Association (NBOA), “Business officers can—and should—play an increasingly important role among their school’s leadership by sharing data, identifying resources, and providing their unique perspective on challenges and opportunities facing the school. But they can only do this if they are part of the conversation.”

Additionally, our research confirms that a minority of admission directors have impact on critical market-based leadership decisions, despite being responsible for generating 80-90% of the institutional operating revenue. It is troubling that enrollment and finance leaders are both feeling left out of the important head/ board decisions on institutional success. How might they work together to change this reality? By aligning to build a partnership, with the end focus on influencing strategic decision making, both business and enrollment leaders will be able to build compelling data that will allow them to command a voice in the head’s office and at the board room table. More importantly, these data-driven insights (which will lead to data-driven strategies) are grounds for a powerful partnership that can transform a school’s trajectory.

Planning & Accountability

Approaching the relationship with shared accountability is a surefire tactic to ensure enrollment managers and their business directors build trust and influence. To Shields’s point, trustees and school leaders need data—and this is a perfect starting point for both parties. Since both admission and finance leaders are eager to be informed on national/regional/local trends, why not provide one demographic/trend report for your head, leadership team, and board of trustees on a regular (monthly) basis?

Next, each party should have access to the latest demographic information. Along with market reports and competitor analyses conducted by internal admission teams, data and statistics from EMA’s Data Dashboards, NAIS DASL, and industry publications like NBOA’s Net Assets and The Yield can build a joint monthly report in ways that inform budgeting and financial modeling, right-sizing, or financial aid.

Profiting Together

The time has come for independent school business officers and admission leaders to consider anew how to collaborate in support of school sustainability. The admission office’s success and the future of the independent school market depend on collaboration between those with the responsibilities for managing finance and market, moving forward together towards a positive end for the institution.

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