Tutoring Is Actually A Relationship Business

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Ok not that type of (romantic) relationship…

A little over a year ago I started working for a test prep company as a faculty manager. Prior to that I’d never worked at an education company so the learning curve was steep for me initially. Fortunately I didn’t have to tutor students (not my role or skill set), instead I managed a team of 30 tutors remotely.

Being immersed in a new industry you learn the lingo quickly, but one thing never clicked for me while I was there: why do we care more about sales than people?

I get it — the difference between a business and a hobby is profit made, but the lifetime worth (loyal customers) and tutor retention make or break your company.

What my former company saw as the “why” was much different than what I believed it was: relationships.

Without great tutors and customers you have no business.

After I decided to leave one motto stuck in my head: if you take care of your people, they will take care of your customers.

That’s why months after starting my own online tutoring company I know I’m in the relationship business.

Truth be told, market research is important, but in a service industry people come first. Being in a relationship-driven business it takes time to grow. That means no overnight contracts, quick sales or cutting corners. Each interaction matters.

Once your sales strategy is determined you stay committed to it and live with the results (pivot over time if needed).

Part of creating and strengthening a working relationship is transparency and vulnerability. Although it sounds risky, it actually attracts the type of person who aligns with your vision.

When it comes to test prep (SAT/ACT) competency is the qualifier (if you don’t know the content, you can’t teach it), but the chemistry between the tutor-student is what determines how successful the results are.

That’s why as a parent previewing the tutor ahead of time makes the biggest difference. It’s why we offer a free 30 minute video meet and greet with student, tutor and parent before committing. We put our money where our mouth is.

What we’re selling isn’t really knowledge…it’s a relationship.

Why Perfect Scores Don’t Make The Best Test Prep Tutors

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True or false: the best tutors are the near perfect performing ones.

False.

Content knowledge is the qualifier, but it’s not the most important factor in finding the best tutor for your child.

If I asked you to name the best teacher you’ve ever had I guarantee the description includes personality characteristics and how that person made you feel.

It’s not any different with tutoring.

Let’s face it, your son or daughter can choose at least 5 things they’d rather do outside of school than meet with a tutor. That’s exactly why pairing the right tutor with you child can make the difference between success and failure on test day.

In fact it’s so important to me as the owner that I express to candidates if I don’t get along with you we can’t work together. Now that may sound completely subjective, but relatability is the reason our tutors on average are 10 years older than high school students.

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is one of my favorite leadership quotes.

Translation: what good is working with a smart tutor if the student doesn’t like or respect them?

What matters is how well the tutor can teach the content and strategy of taking the test to the student independently.

In business, the term culture is brought up frequently. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to find tutors that can pretty much work with any type of student. Part of the interview process to join our team is teaching me some problems so I can experience being in the “student’s shoes.”

It’s easy to identify personalities that mesh well with teenagers. In sports, “player’s coach” is often used which is a perfect analogy for our tutors.

And even though I take pride in my student-tutor matchmaking ability, we take is a step further by offering a free 30 minute video meet and greet with parent, student and tutor.

It’s not impossible to score well preparing alone, but working with our team is having an “edge” on test day (that voice in your head talking you through the process).

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Online Tutoring: What Makes It Successful

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Skeptics of online tutoring beware: meeting virtually beats face-to-face.

Besides eliminating the commute, technology allows both the student and tutor to screen-share problems, annotate on the screen together and share documents real time via Google Drive.

Anything you can do in person can be done online.

As a parent if you’re concerned with “safety” issues, just request the recording. At Growing Forward Academy, we use Zoom which provides the option of recording sessions.

If you’re a helicopter parent (don’t worry, we won’t tell) this is better than trying to hide in the background or eavesdrop on an in-home session. Instead of your child being upset that you’re being nosey, you can actually view the recorded online session in private!

What I learned working for an online test prep company was this: strong interpersonal skills translate well online. Simply put, if you’re good at maintaining conversations in person, you’ll be good at it virtually (the same is true for the opposite). That’s why we emphasize personality so much during the interview process.

Communication mediums are different for teenagers. Most prefer to text, message or send video versus talk. Empathy is lost in translation, but one of the strongest arguments for online tutoring is that the recipient (student) prefers it.

Parents, change is hard, but you have to think about what’s most effective. What we’ve done to alleviate the skepticism is offer a free 30 minute video meet and greet for the student, parent and tutor before committing to purchasing hours.

To us success depends on the chemistry between the student and tutor, which is why we take the extra step. In most cases the only reason why tutoring fails is when the student and tutor don’t click. Ensuring the “fit” before committing to invest is the best practice moving forward.

So what are you waiting for? Give us a try!