August 7, 2023
This is the second post of a three-part series on the stages of partnering with a back office support company for charter schools. The first part of the series explored the benefits of using a high-quality back office support company.
Once your charter school has decided to work with a back office support company, the school’s leadership and board will need to determine which one is the best fit. A back office support company should be more than simply a vendor; it should be a strategic partner that has as much invested in the success of the school as the staff and board! While the handling of tasks and transactions will free up more time for you to focus on the school’s academic program, a true partner will help to align your budget and operations in support of that academic program.
With so much at stake, it’s important to ask the right questions to ensure that your school makes an informed decision. The following questions will help you determine where your school needs support, understand the services included in the back office bundle, assess the company’s flexibility in adjusting to your needs over time, and evaluate their service delivery staffing model and overall experience.
Where do we need help?
The foundation for any successful relationship is knowing what you bring to the partnership and what you need from your partner, so it is crucial that the school staff and board do their research and carefully choose a provider that matches those needs. Identify the gaps in skills and knowledge of your staff and board. Do you already have a well-staffed business office and need a bookkeeper to provide transactional support, or are you looking for CFO-level guidance to help you plan for financial stability? Do you need support finding and financing a facility? Are there certain back-office functions that you want to keep in house?
What specifically is included in the service bundle?
Understand what is offered and what is not. Seek detailed clarification on pricing, depth, and frequency of services. For example, how often are cash flow and budget forecasts updated? Does the company provide audit support? What tools are made available to the school for on-demand visibility to its financial data? Will company representatives attend your board meetings to present updates and answer questions? Then determine if those services and tools match the expectations and needs of the school staff and board.
Can the service flexibility adjust to my needs over time?
Ask if the provider will tailor services to your needs or if it’s a one-size-fits-all approach. What defined service level options are available? Further, as your school evolves and your needs change over time, will the provider adjust its scope to meet your requirements?
What is the service delivery staffing model?
Find out if the provider has specialized staff with deep expertise in each functional area or if a single individual is attempting to wear multiple hats. Ask how many schools are assigned to your primary support resource and find out each company’s staff to client ratio. Additionally, clarify if you will have direct access to transactional support teams to troubleshoot issues as they arise.
What will the service delivery experience be like?
While the back-office services described by different companies may appear to be similar on paper, there can be tangible differences related to service delivery approach, support levels, and communication. Your best course is to spend the necessary time speaking with current clients of each provider to hear firsthand about their experiences. You might ask about responsiveness to requests, turnaround time, accuracy in reporting and projections, knowledge of compliance requirements, and proactivity in planning for the future. Additionally, don’t be satisfied with a few reference schools that have been selected for you by the provider; ask providers for a complete list of their back-office clients so that you can choose which schools to contact when performing reference checks.
Choosing a back office support company for your charter school is a critical decision that can have a significant impact on the school’s financial and operational success. At EdTec, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities facing charter schools, and we’re committed to providing comprehensive, flexible, and responsive back office services that meet the specific needs of each school we work with.
If you’re interested in learning more about EdTec’s back office services and how we can support your school’s success, fill out the form below!