Last week my family and I toured Costa Rica with our friends, Carlos Najarro, Jonle Sedar and their family. While this was a personal trip, I couldn’t help focusing on their home-based business, CPI, a Spanish immersion school with three separate campuses in different parts of the country.”
The beautiful Monteverde campus in the rainforest (yes, it’s awesome) includes classrooms (of course), study areas, a library, perfectly landscaped courtyards and stylish yet functional apartments for the students. The CPI apartments and the family’s gorgeous townhouse (the couple has an incredible eye for design) are connected to the school.
Seeing the CPI staff and their owners in action reminded me of a few business tips.
- Listen to your clients. Students often ask about tours and sites to see, so Jonle started a tour division. Now, before a group of students comes to Costa Rica to study, they pick the activities they want to do and Jonle creates an itinerary for them. The students pay in advance and don’t have to worry about paying before every activity.
- Put systems in place to make your business run like clockwork. CPI’s administrative staff and teachers have clear-cut job descriptions and responsibilities. When Carlos and Jonle are away, it’s business as usual and if their staff has any concerns, they can reach the couple easily through their cell phones or Skype.
- Don’t be afraid to expand your business. The peak tourist season in Costa Rica isn’t during the summer when students study at CPI. Instead it’s during the winter months. Rather than leave the apartments empty, CPI rents apartments, called Casas del Toro, to tourists from around the world and organizes tours for their guests.
- Turn subcontractors and freelancers into full time employees when their workload increases. Rather than hire a contractor for individual projects, Carlos decided to hire a contractor full time. The contractor handles projects that are continually going on at one of the three campuses.
Visiting my friends in Costa Rica reminded me of one of the advantages of working from home. You can either stay small or grow your business as big as you want and still be home-based.