Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Going backwards, standing still

There are huge numbers of books written by quasi-business gurus that adorn the shelves of airport bookstores on the subject of successful growth strategies. Cash cows, rising stars and limping dogs become the metaphors through which we are able to categorise our markets.

But one thing holds true throughout, if you stand still, you actually go backwards. You must always be asking ‘what’s next?’ and seeking ways to continue to develop and further differentiate in your market.
And so it is even at Best.  You’d think the world of theatre for children would be immune from all of this commercial savagery, but far from it, our market is fiercely competitive and increasingly more difficult to understand and (strangely enough) communicate effectively with.

In St Albans, at its peak, we had 13 other drama schools competing for students. We think we have 11 competitors at present in AL1,2,3,and 4). It’s considerably more if you include Harpenden and Radlett. In such a small city that is a real challenge. I’ll answer the inevitable question (well, skirt around it a bit probably) in a future blog. But each has its own identity and style which is why we always advise new students to have a look around, confident that the majority will choose us. But despite our reputation and our longevity ( approaching our 15th birthday) we are increasingly conscious of our need to move with the times and to augment our offerings to meet changing needs and attitudes.

The core of our offerings, First Class and Best, are tried and trusted and although we do change things from time to time (like having a panto in the theatre last term) it’s a formula that children seem to love and is well established and comfortable with us and with a number of others. We will always (we hope) have First Class and Best in their current forms.

But returning to the theme of this blog, we know we can’t stand still and that we need to introduce some new exciting and value-added services to keep Best at the forefront of theatre schools in St Albans.
Ha! That’s got you wondering, hasn’t it? Well you’ll need to wonder a little bit more as we are working out some of the fine details at the moment. But you can have a think around the following trends in society and education:-
  • Parents increasingly demand ‘proof of progress.’ We do public shows, end of term showings, annual reports, annual certificates and all kinds of other things but there may be more we could do
  • Parents and children want choice
  • Generalisation is being sidelined by specialists...
  • ...and yet, people like to have a single source for all related items/services
  • Young people are growing up much faster (again a theme for a future blog). They are more ‘self-aware’ and claim maturity earlier (whether or not based on actual maturity)
  • Our student age profile has altered radically since our launch 15 years ago

So what does all of this mean for Best? You'll have to watch this space!