School Business Leadership

What makes a good School Business Manager?

I think it is usually straightforward to match a person to their job. Given a room of people and a few minutes to talk to each of them, I reckon I could probably identify the doctor, firefighter, soldier, accountant, shopkeeper, chef…teacher. But what makes a good School Business Manager?

A strategic SBM has a unique set of personality traits that might make them more difficult to recognise. Here they are in me-form, you might recognise them in you.


I’m the woman who got to Candy Crush level 1840 and WordBrain Scientist level 12 before losing interest. I played 2048 until I completed it because someone told me I wouldn’t be able to. I accept that when I’m focused on something I find it very difficult to put it down until it is either complete, not taking me anywhere (or the Boss tells me to)!


There’s that rhino skin again. I think I recover quite readily from the nonsense that is thrown at me on a daily basis and I know a good chunk of my role necessitates the ability to bounce easily.

Accepting (of conflicting demands)

Yes, I can stop to read that email you’ve sent me while I’m in the middle of my Budget return and yes I’ll just do a quick duty shift in the Dining Hall before meeting with planning officers about our new building, no problem. And yes, the fire alarm will always go off when i’m in the middle of proof-reading prospectus copy (and i’ve got my highest heels on). I really think the term “Sod’s law” was (or should have been) coined by an SBM!


My skin might be rhino but my brain is all elephant. I’ve always said that if my memory starts to fail me I shall hang up my SBM boots. I don’t need to keep it exercised with brain training. My role does that with constant questions; How much are we still expecting in income from teacher training? How much is left in the Biology budget? Who did we order that floor cleaner from last year? What’s our company number? Total Recall – that’s me. Please God, could I keep my marbles for as long as possible?


Understanding the feelings of others is vital for an SBM. On a good day I can do this no problem. If I’m frazzled and under pressure, I recognise that this is the first thing I fall down on. I should have a badge to wear at times like these that says; “Could you ask me that when I’m not in the middle of doing this?”


I would always want to be told if there is something I’m involved in that isn’t going right. Give me the opportunity to defend it or correct it. Do not grumble behind my back. Also, I don’t do sarcasm. If I say “how fabulous, well done” that is what I mean.


If you tell me you’ve found a new job, I’m excited for you and excited for the changes it is going to mean for me. Of course it is going to mean a spike of work for us all (and I’ll miss you) but change keeps us all moving forward.

Of course, overall SBMs have to be confident individuals, not only in their own ability but in that of their teams. They may come in many shapes, sizes and outlooks but I would argue that their personality needs to include a healthy dose of each of these traits in order to keep the support function in a school turning effectively

So sometimes, on a Friday evening, glass of wine in hand, I think back on the week and I’m amazed at what I’ve achieved (sometimes if only in just holding it all together) but that, I guess, is the point of my role. I’ll do this – you get on with the teaching, learning and assessment. We make a fabulous team.

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