It was this increasing, and often confusing, number of options that prompted the two public school teachers to start tutoring.
“We wanted discursive settings, where they could talk, and with specialized teachers. And we wanted to keep prices down,” Scanlon explained, who serves as the company’s lead teacher.
Up until now, the pair almost exclusively taught all the classes. But at their first meeting, Blanco pointed out that as the business grows, Delgado needs to change that model, assuring him that with the right planning, he can still achieve his core mission of delivering quality teaching at affordable rates.
“The fundamental first question is do you want to grow? And if you do, you have to admit to yourself that the business model you have is not scalable,” Blanco said. “How can I start building a brand around what we do, rather than Carlos? Rather than what can I do, what can the business do?....What I tell businesses is put processes and procedures in place to make it growable over time.”
Once a system is in place, Blanco continued, “then you bring in measurements to make sure it’s doing well. So you make sure when you’re not around, that person is delivering the quality you expect.”
Delgado indeed wants to grow, but insists any new teachers share the same experience and commitment.
“Also certified in a subject area,” Scanlon added. “A lot of people we knew were teaching the whole test, so they were doing both math and reading.”
Those qualifications, particularly in such a crowded market, could be what distinguishes Gables Tutoring from the field, Blanco pointed out.
So several weeks and several phone calls later, Blanco, Delgado and Scanlon reconvened with a new game plan.
After devising a system for hiring, retaining and evaluating teachers that included bonuses tied to student ratings as well as training to ensure uniformity of service, Delgado hired two seasoned teachers with whom he had previously worked.
Blanco had suggested Delgado find a more central location where he could have the business in one office rather than two, several doors apart. But Delgado pointed out that in order to keep prices down, he needed cheap rent. The strip center may be short on parking, but when students arrive in the evening, most of the other businesses are closed leaving plenty of spaces. And more importantly, the location needs to be safe and well lit for teens who might be driving themselves. Other locations, he said, rented at twice what he paid.
With the location settled, Blanco moved on to marketing and, by extension, Delgado’s website. Like many small businesses, the site offered information to users, but did little to help Delgado operate and market his business.
So with Blanco’s help, Delgado overhauled the website, starting with how both he and students use it. He created a student portal, that allowed students to pay and track their classes. The portal also allows him to collect data about classes and students.
“The website is the foundation for data gathering, so you can launch referrals or direct mail. You can do a million things once you have the data, but without that data, it’s blind,” Blanco said.
Delgado also posted schedules and teacher profiles, with links that let students and parents check the status of their state certifications. And he created an online resources page that takes students directly to SAT practice sessions created by the College Board or math worksheets at math.com.
Delgado also tackled the issue of accounting, one that invariably plagues new businesses, by switching from his little green notebook to QuickBooks.
“Once you get into QuickBooks, you’ll wonder how the hell did I ever live without it,” Blanco said. “Now, all I do with my accountant is send him a copy of QuickBooks and my last bank statement. It’s amazing.”
At the conclusion of the makeover, both Delgado and Blanco felt like Gables Tutoring was in good shape for the future, with a new model that will allow it to grow while maintaining the quality instruction that formed the basis of its early growth.
“There wasn’t a single thing he suggested that I didn’t do,” Delgado said.