From time to time, the team at TutorCruncher like to touch base with our clients to see how they're getting on. We recently had one of these chats with Chris Mallon from Chris Mallon Law Tutor and he offered us some great insight into the story of his company, struggles that he faced, and how he overcame him. Below is a summary of what Chris told us, we hope you'll find his as interesting as we did.
What's your background, and how did you get into tutoring?
Before setting up the company I taught law at several leading UK universities for the best
part of my career. I stopped lecturing and started tutoring in 2014 with only 4 students; but
that number increased pretty quickly thanks to some great referrals.
What does the company do and how does it work?
The idea behind Chris Mallon Law Tutor was simply to help law students improve their grades. To that end the company has helped over 180 students with LLB, GDL, LLM, CILex and A-level's. About 70% of classes take place online and the rest are face to face.
For three years I worked without a website or any management software and, while business did well, I had hit a ceiling in the impact we were having. My students kept saying I should start a website for easier accessibility and management. So in 2017 that's exactly what I did. I hadn't realised it at the time but getting online and using a management software were the best two things I could've done for my business.
Thankfully getting our company online addressed that issue very well. With an online- application process built in through our website tutors were able to quickly apply and we'd even appear to them on online searches for local tutoring, with no need for promotion by me. Over the following two years we've had 2000+ applications from tutors, 28 of whom we took on board and are working with us now.
Once we had started signing on quality tutors in significant numbers a new challenge presented itself. As we grew between 2017 and 2018, my workload multiplied massively. I struggled to keep track of administration, leads, tutors, recording classes, receiving payments and so on.
How did you get admin workload under control?
Out of the top software programs I discovered, I found TutorCruncher the most helpful for handling admin workload and automating tutor applications.
I always knew that tutoring companies are a lot more admin-intensive than companies in other sectors. There's a lot of scheduling, billing and CRM that goes into management, but as a smaller company I could still handle it with excel sheets and so I continued to, even if that wasn't the most efficient way of running things.
As I became familiar with the functionality that TutorCruncher offered I realised two things;
Firstly, sure, I could manage the business with excel spreadsheets, but that didn't mean I should manage it that way. I fell into the classic startup trap of not adequately valuing the time I was spending working on the business. TutorCruncher could do what excel could do, but it could do it so much faster. The time I saved by performing more efficiently alone more than compensated for the monthly TutorCruncher cost. We have cut administration time by about 50% since starting with TutorCruncher. That leaves me time I need to tutor myself and to move the business forward.
Secondly, there were so many features that TutorCruncher offered that I hadn't even though of prior to my time with them. These were things I've found extremely useful in the years since but which I never would have considered investing in prior to finding them available on TutorCruncher. These are things like automatic invoicing to clients, client balance statements, tutor CV uploads etc. There are many features beyond these things I don't currently use, but I can see the value in all of them, and it's both exciting and reassuring to know that I can change or expand my business model quite significantly at any time and my TutorCruncher account will roll with the changes.
What tools didn't work/what solutions did you try that were a waste of time?
We had an Excel spreadsheet phase at one point but none of us were tech experts. We were operating multiple spreadsheets for leads, customers, timetables in the most basic form. It was all a bit of a mess really. That approach definitely held back the development of the company as the information was not easy to organise or access. I just want someone to show me what box to tick so that everything will work. Having to maintain an understanding of how all our spreadsheets cross-referenced each other and our processing for changing or accessing information was a mind melt and it made training up new admin staff a real chore.
What tools were most useful to you in moving forward and how did you use them?
Every time we've focused more on our online presence or improved our management systems our growth has accelerated as a direct result. That said, we have always ensured that technology didn't replace a personal approach to each customer. We're very cautious of making our process feel impersonal or overly automated. We add value by providing a personal approach to tutoring so we won't ever lose that. There's efficiency and there's the personal touch, and the two can be married together seamlessly.
Now we have everything in one place under the TutorCruncher package it just makes life easier for me, the tutors, the clients and the students.
What's next for Chris Mallon Law Tutors?
The days of traditional legal education are numbered. In 2021, students intending to be solicitors will be eligible to qualify under a completely new qualification – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). All entrants to this course will have to pass multiple exams on core legal subjects and legal skills.
When the SQE is implemented, private law tutors like us will be competing head to head with established universities for influence over this new market. I don't expect that to be an easy contest, but I'm confident that our greater personability, efficiency and flexibility of business model will see us come out of that contest on top.
What's your strategy for the future?
We will continue to focus on delivering quality results, putting the law student first, innovating and remaining efficient. We have the systems in place at present (our staff, TutorCruncher, and our amazing clients) that we can use as a platform to evolve into something that caters even better to the needs of the legal education market. We will ensure that we develop our services continuously and stay up to date with technology. Tutoring is an ever growing market and there is a lot of rewards to reap.