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7 Questions with Chris Jones
7 Questions with Chris Jones

Name: Chris Jones

Current title: Chief Executive

Current organisation: CJ learning Ltd

Having spent 25 years as a teacher and school leader I left the chalk face to begin an education services company focusing on curriculum design and school efficiency in 2010 and have worked across the UK and beyond since then now with two companies one focused on educational leadership support and one on organisational analytics.

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?

Recognising when the team needs to grow to meet demand and when to simply absorb the level of work and its impact on a small team.

2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?

As a school leader I was engaged in innovation in educational organisation at the point of the academisation programme. I had been working to support several schools beyond my own and so made the evaluation that I could better use my knowledge and expertise working differently than leading just one school. I started with CJ Learning in April 2010 and have grown since then developing a way of working we now have trademarked to SMARTcurriculum® Method and added the online analytics 3 years ago. As the company has grown we have brought more permanent, contract and casual staff as needed.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

In normal times I spend most of my week on the road travelling to educational organisations to work with leadership staff. My staff work remotely so contact and meetings have been conducted remotely. Since the pandemic this has been solidified as no travel occurs and all our work has gone online. The days begin at around 7:30 with administration work and catch-up. Around 9-9:30 connection begins with clients in online meetings which will continue until 4-4:30pm. My assistant will schedule meeting, coaching and online training sessions weeks in advance and the diary is full. We schedule team meets weekly and monthly to ensure clients needs are being dealt with. Working remotely previously to the pandemic has meant little change for the team, mostly in my days. The end of the day is around 6:30-7pm although I plan a 1 hour break somewhere in the middle of the day to get away from the screen and walk for a while.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

Getting input from the team and doing team training together in a smaller organisation is energising to all and significant to focus on the Why? of what we do rather than just the What?

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Connected Leadership by Andy Lopata I have known for some time that the education world is one of the hardest to sell into and that most of our business growth comes through personal recommendation. Being strategic about the relationships we have developed and capitalising fostering them and being careful to maintain them and message them with a focus on purpose has been a significant lesson and has had a great impact on the team as much as on my leadership priorities.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?

To a degree by focussing on growing your own. By empowering those who are working with you to take leadership decisions and see that they lead at their desk. Giving them the accountable freedom to explore ideas as the business grows and to see that you may have the title but you dont have all the knowledge.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?

The focus of our work is with educational leaders so there are many good and bad stories that we have impacted and influenced through our work. The greatest learning curve was when we experienced invoice fraud. We have always had to work hard at getting paid by clients who maintain they have money issues but we have continued to build good relationships and get paid for work through diligent processes. On one occasion a contractor's email was compromised and as a result we lost a significant invoice value to fraud. With no help from the bank to recover it, the lesson we learnt was dust yourself off, pick yourself up and move on. Write off the debt and move forward, pay what you are committed to, recover what you can, don't look back and certainly make yourself secure but move on from blame, it achieves nothing.