b'FORECASTING LOOKING AHEADAll businesses need to be able to forecast for future performance, and independent schools are no exception. Strategy and finances should be intertwined. Daniel Cohen reportsSetting key performance indicators (KPIs), modellingreminder should be set up for the admissions team cashflow and producing financial projections are allto contact enquirers again if they have not made essential in ensuring that the path the school is on isan appointment after a month? Identifying and one that leads to stability and success. However, inaddressing these issues can reap huge benefits in order to make realistic projections for the future, it isterms of pupil recruitment, and having analysed past essential to analyse the data from the schools pastperformance it is possible to take into account the and present. investment in improvement to set realistic targets and projections for the future.When it comes to financial forecasting, knowledge is certainly power. Collecting, analysing andConsider the marketinterrogating data on the schools performance toUnderstanding the schools market and where it is date and considering this in the light of currentpositioned within it provides the necessary context and future market intelligence ensures that thefor your schools own performance data. financial future can be mapped with a great degree of accuracy. This makes it possible to set targets thatKnowing the size of the available market is a detail are achievable for the schools staff and to calculatemany schools simply overlook, but this is absolutely expectations of income that are realistic and willcrucial as it demonstrates whether or not the school underpin decisions on future expenditure. is viable; if there are simply not enough children of the right age or gender living within a reasonable Look back commuting distance (for a day school), then the History certainly gives us clues to the future and forschool will not be able to thrive. Market research an independent school this means keeping accurateand population analysis provide the statistical day-to-day records of the admissions performance.information that helps to build a picture of the Most schools use a management information systemschools current market and how it is expected to (MIS), but it is important to ensure that it is beingevolve in future. It can also reveal locations that are used to its maximum benefit. Often, admissions teamspopulated by the schools target market but are as yet are unaware of the capabilities of their MIS and thereuntapped. are some who are not able to analyse the information it holds and who do not have access to an analysisOnce a market for the school has been established, tool to do it for them. It is absolutely crucial to logthe goal is to maximise market share, which requires every enquiry, every visit, every offer of a place, andan assessment of the strength of the schools every acceptance and rejection. Each statistic, whencompetition. If the market is particularly crowded, viewed in context and over several recent years,then the school will need to establish itself in a can give huge insights into the overall admissionsnew or strengthened position, which may require performance of the school and can offer vital pointersinvestment in aspects that will set it apart from its to future success and failure.competitors. For example, a sporty school that is jostling for market share with other local schools Calculating conversion rates from one stage to thethat are performing increasingly well in sports may next quickly identifies any leaks in the admissionslook to invest in the addition of a new and exciting pipeline and signifies aspects of the process that arefacility that takes sports provision to another level, in need of attention and improvement. For example,or perhaps choose to develop and enhance a second if the conversion rate from enquiry to visit is on aor third specialism, such as drama or music, that will downward trend over recent years, then it could bedifferentiate it from the others. that the customer service skills of the admissions team require some sharpening, or marketing collateralIt is only by analysing the performance of the school such as the schools prospectus is not appealing toin comparison with its competitors in the context the schools target market families and encouragingof the market that the schools future potential for them to arrange their visit. Maybe an automatedsuccess can be assessed. 30 www.independentinsight.netIwww.iexcellence.co.ukIwww.i25awards.co.uk'