America at work
The Financial Grade — Aiming for Straight A’s
Amanda Trcka | May 29, 2015

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blog

Meet the 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year – Eastern Regional Finalist: Charter School Business Management

Charter School Businesses Management (CSBM) is a consultancy that helps charter schools build strong, fiscally solvent organizations. CSBM’s work has positively impacted more than 50,000 students and prevented more than 14 high-performing charter schools from closing their doors.

How did the company get started?

As the chief financial officer of a charter school in Brooklyn, Raj Thakkar learned an important lesson firsthand: While charter schools are managed by brilliant educators, these leaders often lack the know-how of running the business’ books. About 80% of charter schools are closed due to financial mismanagement, while only 20% are shuttered over academics. “I couldn’t stand how many charter schools were failing because of financial mismanagement; actually, one in seven are closed down,” Raj says, adding, “I wanted to do something about it.” He started CSBM in 2006, serving as the company’s only employee with a handful of clients in the New York City area. Raj expanded to 3 employees in 2007–and 38 in 2014. CSBM now serves 45% of the charter market in New York City.

New York, New York, USA - April 1, 2015: Raj Thakkar, Founder & CEO, Charter School Business Management.   Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

New York, New York, USA – April 1, 2015: Raj Thakkar, Founder & CEO, Charter School Business Management. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce

 

How does the company approach community involvement?

Schools are all about connecting a community–and CSBM has strived to keep locations open, especially in lower income areas, giving kids a place to learn and grow. The company tries to make a social impact, whether empowering students to be environmentally conscious or creating a stable setting for children in the foster care system. That has led CSBM to receive certification as a B Corporation, showing that the company has met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance.

CSBM’s leaders encourage their teams to commit to community service and civic participation, such as Habitat for Humanity and food drives. The company says that “team members collectively donate hundreds of pro bono service hours to schools facing the most challenging financial conditions.” Raj says he believes in “business karma”–if you do what is right for your clients and staff, things usually fall into place. Additionally, the company provides a unique benefit to each employee: $100 to be donated to a charity of his or her choosing.

CSBM has a Fitness Incentive Program that encourages team members to exercise at least 45 minutes a day–and the more they work out, the more money is added to their paychecks.

What’s ahead for CSBM?

The company has expanded to deliver more help to schools with fundraising and operations consulting–and has even reached into new markets in Michigan, Tennessee, and Washington state. Its FOREsight Financial Services for Good is a new product being offered to private schools and nonprofits needing the same type of financial guidance. The program already has 15 new clients, including six private schools.