My SBM Life by Hilary Goldsmith

 What’s your job title and the name of your school?

Director of Finance & Operations, Varndean School

How long have you been an SBM?

Since 2004

What was your path to SBM?

I started my working life in music examination administration, then moved into their finance team.  Then I moved into the cosmetics industry as a statistician. From there I became a school data manager and gradually took on more school support roles until I became an SBL in 2004.

How would you describe the role of an SBM?

Bonkers. Imagine you have a hundred ping pong balls, and written on each ball is the name of a thing that might happen in a school. Then throw all of the balls up in the air at the same time. Your role is to catch them all, with one hand tied behind your back, whilst riding a unicycle, and selling tickets to the crowd who have gathered around to watch the show. That’s the role of the SBL. 

What are the 5 top key elements of your role?

Flexibility, creativity, intelligence, resilience and an astonishingly good sense of humour.

What characteristics do you believe make for a Smart SBM?

Planning skills are vital, but just as vital is the ability to set aside your carefully thought through plans at the last minute, and completely re-write them.

Why do schools need an SBM?

To keep headteachers out of prison.

Have you ever reached the bottom of your to-do list?

Nope, and if I ever did I would add “make more use of your to-do list’ to it.

What’s your top tip for saving time at work?

Develop the art of cutting through the preamble and get straight to the heart of the problem. Don’t waste time on meetings that don’t end with a decision or definite action.

What’s your top tip for saving your school money?

Value your own time. Don’t waste hours chasing a minimal saving. Instead, work on fostering a culture of best value. Challenge the ‘always done it this way’ approach, but don’t sweat the small stuff.

What’s your biggest pain point when it comes to procurement?

I get very annoyed by aggressive sales pitches, so will deliberately not work with a company that does this, even if they might have the best deal. I only work with suppliers who respect my time and expertise, and accept that I already have a very clear idea of what I’m after.

Most SBMs we meet say that networking is a key to the role – what’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt from one of your SBM peers?

There are so many examples it’s hard to think of just one. But there is one uber SBL that I’ve known for many years whose dignity, emotional intelligence and considered approach has stopped me from crashing into situations in anger on several occasions over the years.

Tell us about an hour of your day today

Placed a job advert, answered emails, authorised a BACS run, had a premises meeting, threw some carrots at some goats, and made a note to order more latex gloves.  Don’t ask.

What’s the last thing, professionally, that surprised you?

“Little extras”. Enough said.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being a SBM?

Walking around your spotless school on 31st August, with the smell of fresh paint and floor polish still in the air, admiring a job well done.

SBM, SBP or SBL – where do you stand on the title?

SBL, without question.  I employ Managers, and everyone in my school is a Professional, so that makes me a Leader.

How do you see the role of SBM within the SLT?

Crucial. You might not need to have input on every item, but if you don’t understand the school’s teaching & learning objectives, how can you possibly support them?

How important do you think the head teacher / SBM relationship is?

Crucial. I’ve seen the very best and the very worst of these, and the SBL/HT relationship is often a very good litmus test for the success of the school.

What do you think is the key to a good head teacher / SBM relationship?

Honesty, respect and trust.

What advice would you give to someone new coming into an SBM role?

Get a mentor, network as widely as you can, pitch up on Twitter and join in. Accept that you’ll never know it all, but find out what you need to know to get by. The rest will come in time.

How do you handle a bad day at the office?

Gin and Twitter

What do you do to de-stress after a long day at school?

Gin and Twitter. Oh.

If you have one, tell us about your blog / book?

My blog’s on , as are some of my published articles. I haven’t written a book yet, but when I do, it’ll be a humdinger.