Episode #42: (Part 2) 8 Things You Should Automate Right Now to Create More Time and Make More Money - Teacher Zone

Episode #42: (Part 2) 8 Things You Should Automate Right Now to Create More Time and Make More Money

Last week we talked through “things” 1-4.

Today, we’ll finish things up with the final 5-8 automations you need in your lesson business to create more time and make more money.

Here are the final 4 things we cover:

5: Automate Your Payroll
6: Automate Your Regular Notifications & Reminders
7: Create Evergreen Curriculum
8: Automate Keeping Track of Student Progress

If you can automate and systematize these things in your business, you’ll be able to focus more on the students.

Instead of draining your brain trying to keep track of everything, you’ll be able to engage and empower your learners...which is really what you’re all about.

Watch it Here

Listen to it Here

Or Scan the Show Notes Below

0:00:04.6 Chris: Welcome to another episode of The Teacher Zone with Chris and Tyler, and we will be continuing our talk on the eight things you should automate right now in your lesson businesses to create more time and more money. So, Chris, we’re on part two. Last week, we went over registration, tuition and payments, scheduling, rescheduling, all those automations, also attendance check-ins and how to free up time there. Tell us what we’re starting with on the four we’re gonna cover today.

0:00:38.2 Tyler: So part two of automations we all need in our class and lesson business. The first one we started with here is payroll, and here’s why. I don’t know if you have independent contractors or employees, and quite frankly, they’re different business models; however you run it it’s cool. And I don’t know if you have someone that does your payroll. Right? We do. You can hire fractional CFOs, you can hire bookkeepers, there’s software, there’s all sorts of stuff.

0:01:08.0 Tyler: But to make payroll easy, you need to have some sort of automation that allows you to keep track. We found the easiest way is to utilize the attendance, because then you’re not only… You’re tracking the student’s learning journey, as well as tracking how many hours your teachers are actually doing their job. So we started with payroll because for a lot of you this is a really stressful thing. Tyler, why don’t you explain how we did payroll at our school eight years ago? 

0:01:44.7 Chris: [chuckle] Okay. At our school, eight years ago…

0:01:48.6 Tyler: We would say, “Hey, everybody!”

0:01:50.0 Chris: No. Well, it was Google calendar. We lived off Google Calendar back then. So in the very, very top from midnight to 4:00 AM were tuitions, monthly tuitions, where we docked them, like where their tuitions are due. And it would just fill up with green. And then during lesson times after school, we had everybody… Every teacher had a shared calendar, I made them get a Google calendar, many of them didn’t, and they had their schedule filled out. And we would add them to it, we’d have the master calendar. And then I would say, “Alright, it’s payroll. Everybody invoice me.” Even though they were W-2 employees, I was like, “Invoice me.” I didn’t know the right term to use, right, but I needed something for them to make sure to say, “Thumbs up, this is what I worked.” And then I’d go, “Cool, thumbs up, I agree.” And then I literally would send those numbers and… Well, actually before that, I was… No payroll…

0:02:51.8 Tyler: But the big one, the big one is, is you didn’t actually know who showed up or not.

0:02:56.0 Chris: No, no, no, no, no, zero awareness.

0:02:57.1 Tyler: That’s where I was going with that. It’s like, share the fact that when we first started, we had no clue. We were fully dependent on the honesty of our instructors, which is fine. That’s cool and all, but you’re giving them a lot of work, number one, having to invoice you. And when you can just keep it simple. And so by having…

0:03:16.7 Chris: I didn’t even care about their work, man. Do you know how hard it is on your hand to write 14 checks out, hand-written? That sucked! I was getting to that part, guys. I did not like that at all. So anyways, the automating payroll part has made everybody’s life easier on all aspects. So yeah, Chris, you’re right. I don’t know what they did. I’m waiting for them to get it in, payroll’s due on a certain date, there’s two teachers that haven’t sent the thing yet, they’re not awake yet. We happen to be a music academy. They gigged the night before, I don’t know, and all of a sudden payroll’s almost due, and I don’t have verification yet from them. And technically I didn’t hire them to do that, at all, not once, not ever. It was like this aftermath, after-thought by-product that, “Hey, by the way, I need to know how much you work, and I guess we should make up a way that we figure that out.” That’s all it was. It was horrible.

0:04:13.9 Tyler: Regular time clock in lesson class business, I don’t think it’s as effective, because you wanna tie it back to actual performance. Let’s face it, the more students are showing up, the more engaged they are, and the more engaged they are, the longer they stay, and the longer they stay, the more they learn, and then the more impact you have in the world. So I know we’re all going for great impact in our learning businesses. And so, if you’re going for great impact, the first step as we had in part one was attendance, as part of the automation, and then that actually rolls into automated payroll. So we can just click a button right now, and it pulls all the numbers on all our instructors automatically, and then that allows us, and we happen to use Teacher Zone but there’s other softwares. And so basically it allows us to click a button, give it to our bookkeeper, move on. That’s it. It’s literally just like one click. True automation, it’s not this whole drama like Tyler said, “Uh-oh, now I gotta wake them up, and I wanna get this done, and I know they need to get paid.” Too much. Automate it. Payroll.

0:05:13.5 Chris: That’s all unplanned work, by the way. If you’re waiting on weird things like that… Like we mentioned the big dogs last episode, they’ve probably… They don’t wait for that stuff anymore. When you figure it out… That is unplanned work. All of a sudden you have these amazing things you wanna do to make your academy better, and you’re not only stressed that you can’t find this one person to get this task done, that’s called unplanned work. You didn’t plan that, period, and you don’t want unplanned work. Unplanned work already comes anyways, don’t add it to your plate.

0:05:51.9 Tyler: Yeah. We wanna reduce the fires. Covey talked about that a long time ago in the Seven Habits, basically saying that… I forget what it was, but it was basically, “You want to… Before the storm comes, you wanna make sure the boat doesn’t have any leaks.” So like you’re already fixing things beforehand. Well, the more you plan your work, the more pre-challenge you can actually plan for all the things that could go wrong. If you’re just putting out fires constantly, basically, number one, you’re the worst boss ever, which happens to a lot of us as entrepreneurs. And number two, your staff is gonna feel the tension, and that tension is gonna then translate to the students. So the more automated you get, the less stress, everyone feels it, that more happiness. So, right? We’re trying to promote more happiness. Alright.

0:06:46.1 Chris: So speaking of promoting happiness, [chuckle] notification.

0:06:50.6 Tyler: So number five is payroll, number six is notifications, of things you should automate. What are notifications? So what do we mean by that, Tyler? 

0:07:00.0 Chris: Well notifications, well, we all know what they are day-to-day in our regular lives, let’s take the business side out of it. You get an email from your wife, you get a text message, you get a Facebook notification, “Hey, I posted something today. I hope somebody liked it.” I don’t know, whatever it is, those notifications are part of our life. So, that means that in a academy studio situation, that if you have notifications: [A], they can let people know about the fun things, the good things, things that are coming, whether a chat’s available. So custom notifications that you can create, which is how Teacher Zone works, that’s what we do, there’s 62 of them, you can make them say whatever you want, that they’re from your company, and they allow people to know about the fun stuff, but also know about “Uh-oh, lesson’s cancelled, the teacher’s sick.” And immediately, everyone’s notified automatically, administrators, parents, students and teachers all at once. And I…

0:08:07.0 Tyler: Yeah, so you have a good point. So we also utilize apps and stuff, so you’ve got banner notifications, you’ve got SMS, and you’ve got email. Those are the three most common currently. We also have things like those, then three can tie into other… Let’s say you chat a student about something, then those notifications would kick in where it could text them, or a banner would pop up. But what’s so cool about automating this process is that it makes your team surrogate to technology. In other words, they don’t have to actually manually email out about something, they don’t have to manually text about something, what they’re basically doing is utilizing the notification process to be a surrogate of their behavior. So SMS, email, banner, it’s basically a surrogate of their behavior. Right, Tyler? 

0:09:02.2 Chris: That’s it. Exactly, that is exactly it. So Chris, is there another way with notifications that, for instance, if you’re more of in a culture-building, tribe-building type place to make that impact that Chris was talking about, there’s notifications that you can go a little deeper on. The ones we talked about at first are very business-orientated, like hey, if and then, very transactional, your lesson’s cancelled, cool, convenient, you look professional, it’s solid. But if you wanna go a layer deeper and you’re doing some special stuff inside your academy from your group leaders, the leadership that’s under the leadership, they can also capitalize on these notifications by getting kids more engaged, or students.

0:09:52.8 Tyler: By the way, I have to point out, you just got really distracted, and the reason you got really distracted is because your phone notified you. [chuckle]

0:10:01.9 Chris: I don’t have a phone. I don’t even have a phone.

0:10:02.5 Tyler: Right? So the cool part… Yeah. So that was probably a live notification, but the point being is that with notifications it’s a part of our modern life. And so everyone’s so used to it, why are you feeling like you have to be manual and not automated? So the automated stuff is really what allows us to get our freedom back and allows us to have our time back.

0:10:29.7 Chris: Hey, it was a good idea us planning that little schtick to put in there, to give that example.


0:10:35.8 Tyler: Exactly. Good job.

0:10:37.1 Chris: Chris had that idea, he’s like, “Hey man, pretend a notification comes in and get distracted.” That’s good. No, anyways…

0:10:44.7 Tyler: So yeah, so that’s a good to do, so that’s our sixth one. So Tyler, what’s number seven as far as things to automate? 

0:10:51.6 Chris: Well, this is a big one, especially if you have school, academy, lesson business of any sort, and you are curating curriculum. So if you have a way that you do things that you love, and you wanna… Whether it’s curriculum on how to be a member at your academy, what’s it like, what are you gonna do here, or whether it’s down and where the boots hit the ground, this is how you learn this kata in karate or whatever, or whatever it is, you can… There’s ways to automate and not even have to use YouTube and get your thought process of how your students learn curated into a system so that it’s there forever. And so if you didn’t know that, it’s out there and it’s not as daunting as it sounds, believe it or not, you just gotta do it.

0:11:44.0 Tyler: The term evergreen comes up, and I like that term because evergreen, you hear about evergreen marketing, evergreen communication, evergreen curriculum in this case, it basically means that it is… You can create a class once and then you can… It’s evergreen, you can use it over and over and over. So let’s say you teach the same thing, and I know you all do, you teach the same thing over and over to a beginner student or a beginner class, you could actually put in… And so, I was having a dialogue actually with a large customer back east yesterday, and we were talking about how their staff was starting to do some of this, and how powerful it was that… It’s like, okay, so you take three Saturdays, and you just… It only takes an hour each. So with three hours of you just recording your brain and actually getting it down, you’re gonna save yourself the next 10 years of having to keep remaking that assignment. You can just assign that course over and over. So curriculum’s a really big thing to get automated, because it’s gonna save you that emotional brain damage every week.

0:12:55.0 Chris: It doesn’t just… See, and that’s the selfish version, Chris. So you just said the selfish business owner version, definitely saves us time, definitely makes the teacher able to assign something easier. The unselfish part, the part where we’re trying to make a big impact, who’s on the receiving end of this content? Who’s getting the curriculum? And if it’s laid out in a way that you think is great for your brand and your school and all of a sudden, it just populates in their hand, like that’s the other side of it. There’s two sides…

0:13:29.8 Tyler: Well, it’s like they get to bring their instructor with them in their pocket.

0:13:33.2 Chris: Right.

0:13:34.6 Tyler: Right. It’s like your instructor is now a part of you.

0:13:37.2 Chris: I don’t know. We can’t talk anymore about this. If you don’t get that yet, there’s nothing, there’s no other words that we can use to articulate the importance of both sides of that win.

0:13:50.1 Tyler: Well, you know what’s really funny, is in the lesson business, a lot of teachers are like, “I just don’t have time,” and you know what it really is? We know that there’s an emotional high not automating curriculum, right? We know that basically doing it as we call on-the-fly because now you and your student were discussing something, that’s okay, there’s gonna be that and that is fun, and we know for a lot of teachers, there’s actually a rush you get when you go, “Oh, I’m gonna show you this,” in the lesson or in the class. Totally get that, and we think that’s valid. So do on-the-fly assignments when that arises, but…

0:14:24.7 Chris: Those are custom ones.

0:14:27.2 Tyler: Yeah, those are custom. But if for the most part, the things that you repetitively do again… Again, that’s the key theme with automation, it’s things that you do over and over again. If you get that in as a curriculum, then as an instructor, it’s gonna make your life so much less stressful because there’s consistency in your teachings, and your students are getting the same lessons. We actually did it for our audition requirements. We actually went in and we recorded. We basically have beginner, intermediate and advanced, which we have our own terms for those, but it’s basically what they are. And so we actually created, Tyler, for five different lessons that we teach, so five different instruments in our case, we did five instruments, three types. So we did 15 different audition courses. And from those 15 different audition courses, I think what it… I did most of the recordings myself. I just told the teacher, “Hey, show up, and I’m gonna record you.” [chuckle] And what’s great about those is we’ve been re-assigning those, I think for going on over three years now with those particular ones, and it’s just the gift that keeps on giving.

0:15:35.5 Chris: Right. What would our staff… We have 13 teachers. We do one-hour lessons. And out of our couple hundred students, there are about 70… Anywhere from 73 to 80% of the students are in our concert performance program. Okay. Cool. Well, guess what? They’re all picking one song, on average, and then five people are being assigned parts to those songs. So now we’re like at 500 parts. And then to get some people into that, we need them qualified, they have to be qualified. So our teachers already are doing that. That is the onslaught. That is a big endeavor. And they break it down, they do it so well, but we don’t wanna add to who’s gonna be… Can you imagine throwing the wrong kid into the wrong group? You know what I mean? When all that’s going on. It’s not good. It’s bad for the kids. It’s the opposite impact you want. It’s an impact that might last a lifetime.

0:16:42.6 Tyler: Yeah, to give perspective, we do trials three times a year at our particular… And all that curriculum is automated, all that curriculum is evergreen. So basically, every time, every four months, trials come up again and the instructors can just have already pre-assigned that stuff four months previous, so their students are ready by the time the auditions come. So automation is key with regard to curriculum. We like multimedia because in our modern world, it just speaks to the students. They’re used to it. They’re doing it in their traditional schools. So why not also do it in their after-school programs, in their talent-building, in their sports, in their arts, all that. So, awesome. What is, drum roll please, the eighth automation, Tyler? 

0:17:32.1 Chris: So the eighth automation comes… It goes well with curriculum. It’s called progress. Like can we automate progress? Not their progress, but the metrics of their progress. Can we somehow automate that in our favor as a business to measure growth and whatever? So there’s the selfish side again. I’m gonna call it [0:17:56.8] ____. But the business perspective of the individual from net promoter scores, we always like… We wanna know what those are, right? If we drilled all the way down to the individual impact, if we could find out the measurement on their progress easily, would that benefit our business? 

0:18:19.0 Chris: Then there’s the other side we can talk about. Okay. Gamification, badges, and auto point acquiring. So where, inside the system, the students are automatically getting triggered for things they’re accomplishing, such as practice time every evening, perfect attendance and many things like that. What if, just think about this, just hypothetically, what if your students just showed up and there was four attributes automatically being counted by a system and putting them on leaderboards over the school-wide, so all the kids could see school-wide people’s progress, or roster-wide, or just their own progress? And then on top of that, imagine if there was badges added, custom by teachers. Imagine that world. What would that look like if even if you didn’t do anything by hand, your leaderboards were growing and moving based on accolades the kids were week to week achieving? Wouldn’t that being amazing? 

0:19:30.5 Tyler: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and what’s great is, is that not requiring humans to track all that is huge, because then you’re actually… So it’s almost like what if you could sneak in your student’s house and take their temperature, right? How much they’re studying or what they’re up to? 

0:19:44.7 Chris: That’s super weird, way worse than me getting distracted earlier.


0:19:50.6 Tyler: Well, what’s great is that now with progress automation, you can sneak in their house, but you’re doing it digitally, so it’s less creepy.

0:20:00.1 Chris: Yeah, there’s that. Hey, if you haven’t figured out yet, Chris and I, we’re just human beings, just like you, and we say stupid crap sometimes. It was a great analogy, we all got it, but I just have to laugh at us sometimes. Do we have fun…

0:20:18.7 Tyler: Well, the reality is that you’re gonna be a stalker if you keep going into your students’ houses with a clipboard. Stop that.


0:20:31.1 Chris: So go back to the walkie-talkie method. So let’s pretend, let’s take this down a notch. Your student has a walkie-talkie and you have a walkie-talkie, and you’re 10 miles away. There, how’s that? Is that better? 

0:20:42.5 Tyler: Less creepy. Yeah. Than knocking on their window and saying, “Hey, psst, are you practicing right now?”

0:20:49.8 Chris: Yep, so we digress, we digress. But here’s the deal, guys, this does exist. Bottom line is teacherzone.com actually has this and it will be releasing next week. So there’s a little thing, we threw it in at the end. It’s a dream of ours to somehow enhance, enrich, and make an impact in students’ lives to get them more engaged with their teachers. That’s it. Like that was our goal, that’s our mission. How many people can we affect with the things we love to teach? How can our business somehow… And you saw how that grew. Then Chris and I, we made Teacher Zone and now we’re affecting even more kiddos and adults around the world, but how can we do that in an automated fashion that makes it fun and competitive, right? There’s a little competitiveness. It’s a leaderboard. It’s not a loser-board.

0:21:41.2 Tyler: Yeah, we’ve been automating progress for years. We got… Yeah, we’ve been tracking practice, we’ve been tracking attendance, tracking things like that, but what’s great is that when you turn it into a game, then… So we’ve just upped it. So bottom line is you have to figure out how to automate some of your progress. Teacher Zone’s one way to do it. If you have other ideas, let us know, but what we’ve automated in our system is basically four metrics. One is engagement on logging in; so, how often are they actually accessing all of their assignments and things that you put in there? 

0:22:18.1 Chris: And boom, points acquired, and you get to decide how much that is. Number two? 

0:22:23.1 Tyler: Is basically how much, if they’re using the practice timer, regardless of what they’re learning, the practice timer can be a super help for the instructor and also your team to be able to understand how much the students’ spending time outside of your classes or lessons, working on their craft. And then what are the other two? The other two are engagement with assignments. So when they’ve finished an assignment, it actually… As soon as they mark “Done,” it actually tracks, so that way it goes into those leaderboards. And we’ve had lots of reporting and stuff over the years, but being able to track it a little bit more automated is so cool. And then…

0:23:01.3 Chris: And the other one is just showing up. Like, showing up. If you don’t show up to work, if you don’t show up to your projects, if you don’t show up to school, if you don’t show up, nothing’s happening, your willingness wasn’t there or what… I don’t care what the circumstances, you didn’t show up. So when you do, you get points, automatically, teacher doesn’t have to do a thing. And those add up and the leaderboards move, and it’s… We’re so excited about this. It is gonna be a game changer.

0:23:30.5 Tyler: Yeah, we’re gonna have to do a podcast just on gamification. But at the end of the day, automating your progress of some sort is very important, especially in the learning space, so… And if you’re listening to this, I assume you have multiple teachers, then trying to keep track of what they’re teaching and how the students are actually doing is always a challenge for us, and so we’re now getting that to where we can have that automated. So what a gift.

0:23:53.9 Chris: Right.

0:23:55.3 Tyler: So hopefully those things are helpful, those are only eight. We’ll keep coming up with more, and more, and more that we can automate. And Tyler, you wanna just…

0:24:02.5 Chris: And get into the Facebook group. Accelerating… [chuckle]

0:24:07.2 Tyler: Stop looking it up. It’s Accelerating Studios Academies and Schools.

0:24:11.1 Chris: Wait, I always forget the order of the three. So it’s Studios, Academies…

0:24:18.5 Tyler: Accelerating Studios, Academies and Schools. SAS, S-A-S.

0:24:18.6 Chris: We should have put it in alphabetical order. [chuckle]

0:24:19.9 Tyler: Studios Academies and Schools.

0:24:21.3 Chris: Facebook group, go there, comment if we’ve missed anything that we have to automate. We’d love to hear from you guys in there, or you can also email us at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you there. And again, if you haven’t gotten our e-book yet, teacherzone.com/chaos, five stages of growth in your business from chaos to culture. That’s there for you as well. We love giving you guys things. Can you tell? Right, Chris? 


0:24:50.4 Tyler: Well, Tyler and I, you guys, we’re one of you, so we’re always trying to get better, but we’re also learning from all of you around the world every day, so it’s really cool ’cause it’s our goal then to try and take that and just sort of, Tyler and I, be… Reflect it back to you guys, all the stuff that we’re learning.

0:25:08.7 Chris: We’re conduits.

0:25:08.7 Tyler: Yeah, not only in our own businesses, but all the amazing business owners out there that we learn from daily. Thank you guys for your…

0:25:15.6 Chris: Chris, like your son said at his graduation last week, “If I can graduate, so can you.” If we can get seven-figure-gross lesson businesses established, so can you. That’s why you’re here. So don’t forget that. We’re serious, I know we laugh a lot, but we are 100% serious. If we can do it, you can do it. So again, thank you, Chris, for being here. Love co-hosting with you, and thank you all for tuning in. We’ll see you at the next episode on the Teacher Zone with Chris and Tyler. Thanks. Sayonara.

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