In 1998 I wasn’t sure how long I would stay in Japan, or what direction I would go, with or without my new school. Either way, I had a busy year.

As soon as I started advertising, the phone rang often and over 80% of prospective students signed up.

I also had private students and lessons all over town, and I was running, cycling and taking the train with a growing file of students and lessons, and often a brown envelop stuffed with cash.

It became very difficult, very quickly, to do everything myself. The main thing was not being able to answer the phone and teach at the same time. I must have lost a lot of potential students as I taught while the phone rang off the hook.

Right from the beginning, I did a budget and tracked my leads (but not unanswered phone calls). I still have the original files and we still use this data today.

By 1999 I had decided to stay, at least for a while. I moved out of the apartment and made it into three classrooms. I hired another teacher and a secretary and the school’s income doubled.

I had never been particularly comfortable teaching young leaners, and I certainly couldn’t train teachers to be YL teachers, so I got in an expert to write a training manual and train us all, including the secretary. We videoed these sessions and this still forms part of the Modern English training.

With the secretary answering the phone and doing the schedule, I could concentrate on my classes and ignore the phone.

The newly-trained and enthusiastic YL teachers taught the kids.

A year later the school’s income had doubled again. I rented and converted premises near the station, put a big sign up outside and took on more staff.

I began to look into how to run things better, and to expand.