Lessons I have Learned from Running my Own Tuition Business

running my own tuition business

In this blog, I want to talk about lessons I have learned from running my own tuition business (Redbridge Tuition) in particular, for the last 14 years

I have just celebrated 2 anniversaries; the first is 20 years of running a childcare business- The Hunnypot Day Nursery and the second is 14 years of running a tuition business – Redbridge Tuition. I have already talked elsewhere about running my childcare business and so will not focus on that business here.

running my own business

Pastures New

I graduated in the mid-’80s and had had a full-time job in the City from then on. I have grown up being surrounded by small family businesses mostly in my immediate and extended family and so fully understand the commitment it takes to run a business. I think it almost does not matter in terms of the business size. I think you will still face the same issues. 

For example, in Sir Richard Branson’s autobiography, he describes how the bank manager turns up at his house (if I remember correctly, fairly early on in his career) on a Sunday due to some crisis and is promptly thrown out by Sir Richard. My point is that even the likes of Sir Branson has gone through tough times and to my mind most businesses do. 

 

In the summer of 2004 Citibank offered me a redundancy package which I took and decided to retrain as a teacher. At this point, my husband was running the childcare business but he was constantly in and out of the hospital and so it was really at that point that I became fully involved. 

The idea of retraining as a teacher was really because of the sheer pleasure I got from volunteering at a local primary school during my lunch hour while working in the city. It was only for a few weeks. I was tasked to work with a young boy to help him learn to read.

I was blown away by the difference it made, the difference I could make, in a child’s life. It made me feel that I was making a real and effective contribution.

I worked as a tutor every Saturday with a tuition company from when I started my PGCE (teacher training) and continued with that for a couple of years. At that point, I had no intention of starting my own tuition company. I was more interested in working in a school. But that nagging voice in my head that said that I could do better than this got louder the more I ignored it. 

So I felt I had no option but to start my own company. I say company. To begin with, it was simply me and a couple of teacher friends who hired a room in Ilford County High School and simply started tutoring. Even though I had grown up in and around business environments, I know nothing about starting a business from the ground up. 14 years later and we are running 2 centres and are franchising our methods…

 

Lessons I have learnt:

 

1- Things are never as they seem

Redbridge Tuition was simply a part-time business that satisfied my unexplainable urge to teach. The voice in my head ceased for a while when I first started RTG (Redbridge Tuition Group) because the learning curve was so steep. Sure I was working with teachers and yes, I had gone through the PGCE programme, (full disclosure- I was in the last few weeks of completing my PGCE and had to abandon it due to personal circumstances), but there was just so much still to learn. My pedagogy had not evolved nearly enough and this made the whole thing very exciting.

From that first Saturday of tutoring to this day, the one thing that I have learnt is to always have something in reserve. 

At the front end: It could be that a tutor is caught up in a traffic accident or is suddenly taken sick and you may have to start the class or take the whole class. It could be that your printer decides it does not want to work at that particular point, or it could be that a child is suddenly taken sick in your class. 

At the back end: It could be that the premises alarm has gone off at 11 pm on a Sunday night or there has been a leak on the premises.

As a tutor and a business owner, you need to be able to deal with anything that is thrown at you at the back end (running the business) or the front end (client-facing). So it is really important to keep a cool head and be able to resolve any issue that comes your way.

Lesson 1: Be prepared to deal with anything.

 

2- “But what do you do all day?”

This is a question I am asked often by friends and family. They cannot understand how we can be so busy during the day given that the first-class during term time is not until 4 pm at the earliest.

It is true that I could very easily not do much in the day and still be able to run a tuition business, but it would be the bare bones of a business. It would simply be coming in at the allotted time, grabbing a textbook and teaching from that textbook. At Redbridge Tuition, since we decided to franchise, the amount of work we have had to do to prepare for that franchise (as compared to running a centre) has quadrupled at the very least.

Over the last few years, we have written and published 10 reasoning books (with at least another 2 in the pipeline). We have written whole schemes of work in the core subjects (English being by far the most challenging, and still in progress), created websites and all the usual things that go with a business nowadays, rebranded and are now in the process of building the brand to make it even stronger.

We have gone from tutoring mostly for the 11 plus exam to tutoring school children across the whole age range in the core subjects.

We have launched a podcast and a YouTube channel and are active on social media platforms.

What I have learnt from running a tuition business for 14 years is just how important it is to keep up with the latest methods of running a business. Never in a million years did I think I would be hosting a podcast or presenting on a YouTube channel when I first set foot into Middlesex University to do my Post Graduate Certificate of Education.

Lesson 2: As a business owner you can steer your business whichever way you choose.

3- Passion is everything

Above all, the tuition business is about people. To run a good, strong tuition business (assuming the subjects you are tutoring are more than your speciality), you need a good, strong team around you. There needs to be synergy between the members of staff. At Redbridge Tuition, I think we are really lucky. Our tutors have a passion for the subject they teach and all relate really well with the children. That, and of course, subject knowledge, in my opinion, is the key to a good tutor.

..and management

Then there is the management team. A strong management team is your rudder for steering your ship. We are lucky at Redbridge Tuition. There are three of us that work on the business full time, and both my business partners have their sights set on growing this business. They are as passionate about tutoring as I am. This has meant that we have been able to develop much more quickly than would otherwise be possible. I have to admit I have learned as much from my colleagues as I have from my business Continued Professional Development courses.

Lesson 3: Trust is one of the most important things in business.

 

It’s business but it’s also personal

Tuition is something that has always taken place from Greek times and before. For example, Socrates tutored Plato and Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great.

The tuition business is a strange business. There is no barrier to entry; anyone can (and do) say they are a tutor. There are many different types of tutors from the teachers and retired teachers wishing to teach GCSE students for some extra cash, to the professional and full-time tutors. In all cases, whether you tutor for an hour a week or full-time, it is still business. 

I started tutoring in pretty much the same way. I found I was actually good at teaching children. I started because a friend asked me to tutor her daughter for some basic maths. That was it! I caught the bug! Eventually, it turned it into a business but it was more about the fulfilment it gave me than anything else. What I was not prepared for was the amount of time the tuition would take up, and how much it would get under my skin.

Over the last year or so, however, it is much more in the mainstream through The National Tutoring Programme. This is something that the government has brought in to address the issue of children falling behind due to the school closures during lockdown (pros and cons and my opinion in a future blog!).

Lesson 4: Business is business, but it is my business.

 

Would I do it again?

I think that running a business is in my blood. I was an employee for many years and also an employer for many years.  So I have experience of both sides; being an employee and being an employer, working for someone else, and working for myself.  

By far the more satisfying for me has been to work for myself. Yes, the financial rewards can vary, and yes the work-life balance with tuition is non-existent due to launching the franchise, but by far the sense of satisfaction of creating something from the ground up and the sense of achievement in that ‘aha’ moment that a child has, the sense of achievement to think I helped that child is beyond measure.

What I have learnt from running a tuition business for 14 years is as follows: while earning a living is vital, to be able to contribute is beyond any measure.

Lesson 5: It can be stressful but also rewarding beyond measure!

By far, the biggest lesson I have learned is that you will get back much more than you give in terms of satisfaction and contributing to the community. By far, the best thing is the difference you will make in a child’s life.

If you are interested in finding out more about franchise opportunities with Redbridge Tuition, then please contact us