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28 Pieces of Advice from School Business Professionals

Business

If you could, what would tell yourself before you started working in school business? We asked business professionals from around the country that question, and below you’ll find the results: advice from CFOs, accountants, and other school business professionals.

  1. Establish networking relationships. The connections you make with other colleagues is invaluable. There is so much knowledge and experience out there from which to learn. A textbook is good, but once you’re in the trenches, situations are not always in a textbook — that is when you reach out to experienced, veteran business professionals. Lastly, schools truly are just like a business. They require constant oversight and monitoring in order to stay on top of all that may come at you.
  2. Pay attention to the details. Understand why processes are important.
  3. Never be afraid to learn or try something new.
  4. Attend professional development and meetings to listen to more experienced colleagues’ perspectives, but also realize you may have something to offer by speaking up.
  5. Learn the accounting system and know why you are doing what you are doing. Knowing “the why” is so important in helping staff work efficiently and accurately.
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  1. Learn GAP and other account practices.
  2. Join your state and local chapters of ASBO. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others in school business. Someone else is facing the same issues you are and can help, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
  3. Take advantage of any training provided by the county office and/or your legal team.
  4. Don’t get complacent. Complacency leads to errors and getting behind the times.
  5. It takes a at least a year to really settle in as many things are on annual or biannual cycles.
  6. Find a work mentor. This partnership will guide you for your next steps and get you on a successful pattern for your school year.
  7. Every staff position has to be treated as a different situation. No two positions are the same.
  8. Document, Document, Document.

“Document, Document, Document.”


  1. Learn about all aspects of school finance! You never know what you may learn about an entirely different part of finance that will help you later.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. “It’s a tough business and when I started I was told it would take 3-5 years to learn and it’s true. I’m still learning.”
  3. Document everything for your own personal roadmap and for your successor — and don’t just document, but also keep it up to date.
  4. Take the time to always be looking at new processes or technology to streamline tasks. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and continue to do things “the way they’ve always been done.”
  5. Be willing to accept state-mandated changes and find funds to support them.
  6. Be ready for constant change. The only thing that you can count on is that things will change often and quickly.
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Change You Can Count On: Change Management in K-12

  1. Set up multiple school business absence reasons (for example: trainings/workshops/conferences/association business). This will lessen the number of calls to inquire what the employee should select that pertains to their situation.
  2. Ask questions, take notes and get involved.
  3. Follow all employee contracts and school policies to avoid any problems with staff. Never make special arrangements or agreements with anyone that conflicts with their union contract or with school policy, unless you have written documentation from the school board and/or superintendent.
  4. Know your district’s areas where improvement is needed and set 2-3 goals to focus on and know where to go for help. This will let your staff, board, and community know that you are there not only to handle the day to day operations, but to make a difference overall.
  5. Develop workflows (online and paper-based) and create documents for essential processes.
  6. Develop systems to verify information for accuracy. This ultimately saves time and helps you to work smarter, not harder.
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  1. Make sure your board policies are up-to-date and follow them. Partner with subject area experts to help maintain compliance.
  2. If you are in doubt, RESEARCH, CALL, DIG! Make sure you stay up to date on rules and regulations. Doing it “the way it has always been done” can get you in trouble.
  3. Always keep a positive relationship with your auditors, since they work for you and are there to keep you out of trouble.

What would you add to this list?

There are a few themes that came out of the responses, but change and compliance stood out.  If you’re looking for software that can help keep you compliant, check out this resource. It discusses how your ERP software can keep your district compliant, improve accountability and data security, and become more efficient.

 

Elise Ozarowski

Elise is a writer and member of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. A former member of Frontline’s events team, she is passionate about making connections, whether that be in person at events, online via social media or directly in her writing.