The Business Systems and Processes AJ Saleem used to Triple His Company’s Revenue in a Year!

In this interview, AJ Saleem Academy Director of Suprex Learning reveals the business systems and processes he put in place that empowered his employees to know exactly what to do without his direction. As result, he tripled his company’s revenue in a year.

You will also discover how he streamlined the matching up of tutors with students, how software and outsourcing enabled him to automate various aspects of his business, how he improved communication with his clients, and more!

AJ Saleem Academy Director of Suprex Learning

 

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In this Episode You will Discover:

  • Why one of AJ’s major challenges was matching up tutors with students.
  • How AJ created an administrative handbook for his employees.
  • How AJ outsourced various aspects of his business, particularly accounting.
  • How AJ leverages virtual assistants for free.
  • What AJ learned from his friends in business.
  • Why AJ felt he needed to create all the systems for his business, and how that took away from his ability to focus on high value tasks.
  • How AJ streamlined communication with his clients.
  • Why AJ is constantly researching new software for his business.

 

Episode Transcript:

OWEN: Hi. My guest today is AJ Saleem and he is the Academy Director at Suprex Learning. AJ welcome to the show.

AJ: Hi Owen, it’s a pleasure to be here.

OWEN: This show is all about getting entrepreneurs on here to talk about how they’ve been able to systematize their business and have it run without them having to be constantly involved. In your case you’ve been able to do so and we want to discover how you were able to do so. Let’s keep the listener engaged all the way to the end by telling them some mind blowing results that you now experience as a result of going through the process of systematizing and automating your business.

AJ: Sure. Because I was able to systemize my business I’ve had more free time to focus on bigger projects as opposed to the smaller things that entrepreneurs might face in their day-to-day operations. I could also focus on the macro level things as oppose to the micro level. I have a tutoring company and we work with students. I could spend my time being more the face of the company, visiting with schools, getting large school contracts. And my employees can deal with more of the micro things like taking phone calls and doing follow up calls and emailing clients, prospects, and parents. And then also it allowed me to augment my task in terms of hiring more people because I was able to systemize and automate things in my business.

OWEN: Since 2014, how many were you in 2014 and how many employees that you now… And also the same thing with the contractors, talk about that.

AJ: Yeah. We had two employees since 2014. Now we have six so we doubled our employee growth each year. And then we have tutors on our independent contractors. We probably had about seven or eight at that time in 2014. And now we have I’d say about 20 active tutors.

OWEN: How has the company been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?

AJ: As I mentioned earlier I don’t have to micromanage my employees as much. Before I used to have to be very hands on with each of the employees, spending more time answering little questions. Now they could actually take initiative and take direction on their own now that we’ve got processes and systems in place. And it’s easy for the employees to learn with those systems in place and they could catch on more quickly. Now all I have to do is just focus on customer service and making the customers happy. As a result of all this we’re able to increase our revenue. In 2014 we did about 100,000 in revenues. And in 2015 we did about 300,000 in revenues. And we also expanded to different cities as well. We started out in Houston and we’re able to do some tutoring in Chicago and New York as well.

OWEN: Awesome. If we only talk about how your company has changed as a result of systematizing and automating your business we won’t get the full conversation. So that’s why I want to also find out how has your personal life been transformed as a result of systematizing your business?

AJ: I’ve been able to dedicate more time with my family and do things that I personally enjoy like playing sports and having dinner with good friends. And then also you don’t have to deal with the tedious things of running a business such do an invoicing which can be, I could really put you behind and could get very time consuming. We’ve got that automated and the customer life cycle has really been faster. So it just makes for a happier entrepreneur and business owner.

OWEN: And since you have systems in place in the business that allows it to run without you I’m wondering what’s been the longest time so far you’ve actually been away from it?

AJ: I’ve been able to travel up to 1 week. At most at 1 week I’ve been to Miami and New York on two separate occasions. The employees were able to manage the company without me, and that’s because I had those systems in place.

OWEN: Just to give the listener a context as to exactly what your company does, what does your company do and what big pain do you solve for your customers?

AJ: We do in-home tutoring. We also have centers that students come to and adult students as well. We serve all the way through kindergarten at 12th grade, academics, math, English, Science, social studies, test prep like SAT, ACT prep. And then we also help students that we have a very active division that helps students with learning disabilities like ADHD and Dyslexia. And we’re able to branch off into doing a lot of different things, like we have a full-time private school, a small but growing private school that helps students with learning disabilities. And then we also have a sister company that we started that’s actually a non-profit called Kivato Education Center. And we just have a lot of value added services that really change the lives of students.

OWEN: Talk about the story that you shared about having to go for graduation.

AJ: In about 2010 one of my first students actually when I personally started tutoring I personally tutored around the 2010-2011 time frame. One of my students he had some learning disabilities, ADHD, Dyslexia. He was at 7th grade at the time. I tutored him for about 6 months. He was getting about C’s and low B’s at the time. And after doing some tutoring with him he’s trying to get A’s and high B’s. It really transformed the child at the time. And the mom was worried about the fact that she didn’t see the time that he would graduate. She couldn’t see that coming. And so just because her child had learning disabilities, she felt like he wouldn’t be ready for the real world. But sure enough I just got invited to his graduation ceremony. He just graduated high school just recently in May. The very teary-eyed parent of course, she thanked me so much that I was a part of it. And I also got invited to their home for their graduation party. It’s very touching and you could really see the value that you’re offering these kids when those things happened.

OWEN: Is the company profitable? What do you project to do by the end of the year?

AJ: We expect to do about 350,000 by the end of the year. And yes, the company is profitable. There are probably about 10% profitability I would say. We do have some losses in some months but those are because education, the salt season is in the summer, and really busy in other months during the school year.

OWEN: But overall I would think at the end of the year ends up being profitable.

AJ: Yes.

OWEN: We’ve talked about the benefits you have now of systematizing the business, but it wasn’t always like this, right? So take us back to when the business was not systematized and automated like it is now. What was wrong with it?

AJ: The thing is the education industry is very hands on. There’s a lot of moving parts, there’s a lot of variables. You have to hire tutors. And because it’s hands-on, dealing with kids, it’s very important that you’ve met them in person, or even do a video interview such as Skype. You’re dealing with children so parents, that’s one of the big things you look for. Some of the other variables that you have to deal with is you have to accommodate clients that are looking for tutoring in different parts of your time, and different subjects, different availabilities. And then you have to match those tutors that have with those prospective inquiries according to those availabilities, those subjects, those parts of towns. And then you also have kids with all different types of needs. You have parents that also say, “I want a tutor that specializes in ADHD that can help with the SAT.” That’s located in the north side of town. When you might have some tutors mostly on the south side of town that might not have experience with ADHD. There’s a lot of variables and a lot of moving parts. So that can be a nightmare having to go through that. So the thing is our employees don’t understand the challenge of placing a tutor with… I guess people in general don’t understand the challenge of placing a tutor with a specific student.

OWEN: Yeah, because you’re having to match the specific need of that student, and also the sensitivity of the parents regarding the safety of their child and stuff like that. So background checks has to play a part in that as well. Not only matching to match fit of the tutor versus the way he is going to learn, but also parents are sensitive about security and stuff like that.

AJ: Yeah. And some of them they’re not even ready to enroll. We have an e-commerce platform which we’ll get more into later. They could also enroll themselves. But they want to know who the teacher is and all of that. But in order for us to put that effort in to do that we have to get the enrollment first and then we could work on it. So it’s almost like encapsulating two or double-edged sword.

OWEN: Before you figure out some of the systems when the company was not systematized you didn’t even have what you have now is the e-commerce where it works out more like an e-commerce system, they upfront. But before you do all that work only for them not to sign-up.

AJ: Yes. We didn’t have that before. We got it fully functional in early 2015. We had different variations in 2014, but really functional in 2015. But it’s really e-commerce class could pay upfront and before that we just had a lot of drop-offs, and it was just too many variables to deal with.

OWEN: Back when the business was not systematized I’m wondering was there a specific low point or even maybe a breaking point, something happened and you were like, I just have to change the way things are happening because it can’t be like this anymore?

AJ: I would say there’s multiple events that happened that are probably the same. And I think it would be like the…

OWEN: Give us an example if you can remember one.

AJ: I would say the chaos of having to deal with clients coming in. Even though they say that they’re going to enroll we work on getting them a tutor, they don’t pay us upfront like our system is set-up. And then we do all these work setting up the tutor and telling them about the client’s needs, doing a lesson plan for the student based on what the client is looking for. And then they drop off after all the work we’ve done. We’ve invested employee time. not only that but a little bit of my time as well into making sure our quality is kept high.

OWEN: Also during the pre-interview you mentioned something about how a specific time your business account went down to zero. Talk about that.

AJ: It’s pretty difficult because you have to figure out the cash flow somehow. So you have to figure out who you’re going to pay first. The thing is you kind of have to choose between your employees and your vendors. I give my priorities to my employees first. And then I kind of decked my landlord if you will to see if they can wait to get paid because I could sometimes negotiate that. But if you don’t pay your employees on time then they have an incentive to leave.

OWEN: I’m assuming that all these cash flow stuff was more because the infrastructure was not in place the proper way at that point. So that’s where all these struggles are also coming from, right?

AJ: Correct. Because of course we have to invest a lot in the… There was a lack of infrastructure, so we’d have to pay for more employee time to manage less students. So we have less students and then we have to invest in more employee hours because we don’t have a proper infrastructure in place.

OWEN: Okay. What was the very first step you took to systematize the business?

AJ: The very first step to systemize was to create a handbook and then measure the handbook for employees to follow. We created into Google Docs, and we took screenshots of all the different processes and protocols we do, from how to answer phone calls to how to record prospects in our database, how to use our tutor management software, how to order supplies, all these different processes need to be written down so a business owner doesn’t have to say them over and over again. So we do have a Google Doc that we created for that. We also created templates for sales follow-up scripts. So then we don’t have to do a constant sales training because we do have our administrators answer incoming phone calls for parents that are asking about our tutoring services and our private school as well.

OWEN: And so what was the second step you took to systematize the business?

AJ: We invested in different softwares help automate our business. One of the first one we started out was Ring Central.

OWEN: Let me see if I can break it down. The first part was just documenting how you do the different parts of the business manually. Now the second part was taking what you’ve done, documenting how you do it manually, to now trying to automate parts of it, right?

AJ: Yes, using technology really.

OWEN: Okay.

AJ: The software will help you work faster. So Ring Central is a great premium phone service. It’s a voice over IP service. Many people are familiar with Google Voice, this is actually built from small businesses to large corporations. You could actually access all your phone calls from your cellphone, your business phone calls, and also on your computer and your desktop as well. And you could also text clients from you desktop or your phone. You could also fax clients from the same app. And again, you could also see it on your phone, you could see the same information on your computer. So that’s been really helpful because that streamlined our operations for all of our employees and we could all communicate in real-time. Another software we use is called Yesware, and that’s an email tracking software that integrates with Gmail and Microsoft Outlook. And that allows us to track one of our emails or open what parts or presentations are viewed by prospective clients, and also allows us to create templates that are consistent templates. Let’s say we have a sales template we want to send out to a prospective customer. All of we have to do is with a click of a couple of buttons you can just insert a template and you don’t have to go searching for different templates on your desktop or Word documents, it’s all there within Gmail itself. That’s been really helpful to boost productivity of our employees.

OWEN: Were there other steps you took to systematize your business?

AJ: Yes, of course. Other steps would be outsourcing. Outsourcing some of the non-core departments or business like accounting. As a small business accounting is not one of our core aspects of our business. We have someone else that does our QuickBooks. We have a virtual assistant. We’ve outsourced it to a virtual assistant service. And we also have a tax adviser that does our monthly bank reconciliations, and they do our yearly taxes. As a small business you don’t need to hire someone to do that, those accounting task and those day-to-day expense categorization. It’s better just to outsource that so you could focus on growing your business. Also within our accounting we created a lot of rules to help automate that process of categorizing the different transactions in our QuickBooks. Going back to the virtual assistant, we actually joined an organization that gives us free virtual assistant hours, some of the virtual assistant hours that we’ve been able to capitalize on. And that organization is actually Founder Society which is meant for entrepreneurs and business owners. That’s been really helpful for us.

OWEN: I’m wondering, back then when you were thinking of the things you do in order to systematize and automate your business, how did you prioritize what order of steps to take?

AJ: The way that you prioritize is to make sure you do the ones that are taking up… You create systems and protocols for the activities that are taking up most of your time, so from the most time to the least time. Going back to what I was referring to we’d create screenshots of our processes. One of the big things that takes up a lot of our time is managing our billing and scheduling. And we have a tutor management software for our clients. We wanted to make sure that all of our employees knew exactly how to use that tutor management software in the beginning when they first get hired on. So instead of having myself have to repeat myself multiple times we started creating screenshots of how to do invoices for customers in the software, how to find out customer balances, how to place a tutor with a student, how to place a newly hired tutor in the system, all those processes. We made sure we did screenshots and wrote step-by-step processes on how to actually go about using the software, and managing the customers and the tutors as well.

OWEN: At the time when you were working on systematizing and automating the business what books and mentors had the most influence on you, if any.

AJ: There hasn’t been a particular book. But I would say the best influence has been my good friends that have helped me grow my business. They’re actually business people. I have two close friends that are very business-minded people, they’re entrepreneurs. If you noticed some bigger tech companies in Silicon Valley they do make friends with a lot of different people and then they grow closer to a few people. And those few people actually end up usually investing in their startup idea or their business.

OWEN: So is it kind of like a mastermind with a group of peers?

AJ: Yeah, it is almost like a mastermind because we do give each other ideas and we give each other constructive criticism. And one of the good friends is actually my online marketing manager. He was able to develop my e-commerce site. And because I have that relationship with that person I was able to get it at the best cost. It’s someone that’s easy to work with, and that’s very important to when you’re a business owner, is to find people that are easy to work with.

OWEN: If we only talk about the results you got and even the steps you took to change things around and we don’t talk about the challenges you actually faced when you tried to systematize and automate the business then we don’t give a full picture. I want to start by talking about what was the biggest challenge you actually experienced when you initially tried to systematize your business and then how did you solve it?

AJ: The biggest challenge is the fact that it has to be done over phases of time. You don’t just wake up one day and turn out that, “Hey, it’s time for me to systemize my company.” You kind of find out as you go what you have to systematize. It took several months to compile it because you also have to deal with your day-to-day operations, your focus on growth for your company. And it ends up taking several months to compile the systemized process or standard operating procedures. And it also took multiple employees over several months because different employees have different feedback, and different input, and they have different expertise. As I taught employees the different processes, I’ve had them whatever they learned in their company, I’ve had them actually add to the handbooks. Of course with that it develops over time and it just doesn’t happen over a few days, it actually takes several months. We’re still adding to that administrative handbook as the business grows. It’s just the fact that we’re just focused on running the business and growing the business, these standard operating procedures just take time to build.

OWEN: So is the solution being okay with the fact that it’s going to take time for you guys to build it over? It’s like an iterative process over time. Is that the solution, being okay with that fact? What am I missing?

AJ: It’s okay right now because we’ve gotten some of the core processes in our handbook, but we’re still adding to it. We’re investing in new software. As you create new software and as you find out new softwares to use you have to create operating procedures further with new softwares. So that’s why your operating procedures keep evolving along with your company.

OWEN: What will you say was the second biggest challenge you experienced when you initially tried to systematize the business, and how did you solve it?

AJ: There are a lot of things that needed my personal attention. I was able to focus on systemizing it as much as I wanted to. As an entrepreneur you get caught up in the day-to-day.

OWEN: I’m curious. If you can remember a specific of something that happened when you were trying to actually work on systems but something else was catching attention. That way we can get some insight into what happened at that time.

AJ: Specific events, I think as entrepreneurs we just have to focus on problems. Like for example an employee that left the company and we had to deal with some negative publicity from that employee, from the social media outlets and then ramifications with clients with that form of employees. Because it’s a small business each employee is really valuable to our company, so when we lose it puts my business back. When I lost an employee my operating procedures we weren’t able to develop it as much because I was focused on how to fix that.

OWEN: Yeah. So it took a backseat because it was like something burning that you had to turn off the fire first, which is important to build, you weren’t able to get back to it. I get that. I’m wondering were there any challenges that you experienced at that time when it came to creating systems for the business besides the ones you’ve talked about so far?

AJ: The thing is I felt like I had to create some of the systems myself. As much as an entrepreneur wants to outsource his work you end up having to do many of the things on your own. That kind of takes you away from growing your business.

OWEN: Why did you feel that you had to do it on your own and couldn’t get your employees to help with it.

AJ: Things like what do we say to the principals of schools, or the business leaders at different educational organizations. An employee that I hire, I might have hired a teacher that’s in education and hire them as an administrator. They may not know how to best approach a school client because that’s just not something they’ve done. I do a lot of different things. I wear many different hats just actually as a business owner. I’m able to see a lot of different aspects in the business. Whereas when you hire an employee they might just know about a specific test and they might know how to just deal with a little bit of customer service issues. But they might now know how to compile email for school, the principal of a school, or what is a protocol for following up with psychologists in the education industry.

OWEN: I get the problem in the sense that because you see the entire picture and the employees probably saw their own small part of the picture. And so you felt like when it comes to the systems standpoint you had to do everything because you’ve just seen the entire picture. But I’m wondering how did you then solve that problem of being able to get the employees to at least see a much bigger picture of what they’re trying to do versus seeing only a very small picture. How did you solve that?

AJ: It does take some time in the beginning. I solve that by letting them go through the entire website when they first signed on board. So the entire websites I should say, because we have multiple divisions. So I have them go through an entire Suprex Learning website which is our tutoring division, have them go through the entire website, Excelsior Academy, and then the entire Kivato Education Center, the non-profit website. So when you go through the website we actually have quite a bit of detailed information. When you read all the content you’re able to soak in a lot of information about what the company does. That in itself has been able to help get an overall picture of…

OWEN: Is that like kind of having them go through the same experience any new customer would have if they were trying to sign up for the service and just walk them through the entire the process of what happens after they’ve bought and stuff like that? Is that kind of what you mean?

AJ: Yes, absolutely. You hit the nail right in the head. As part of going through the website a big thing is e-commerce for our tutoring division. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that clients can check out, we make sure that as new employees are going through the website we want them to pretend they’re a customer and go ahead and check out with like a dummy credit card, and just put in random information. And just go to the checkout process because then you’ll be able to see exactly what kind of questions the customer might ask you. And you’ll also be probably helping a customer where they’re filling a sign-up online as well. Also just doing that will help create better standard operating procedures because that employee will now be able to see hands-on exactly what goes behind what are parents doing. It’ll help them create the procedures better and to just constantly improve it like I mentioned.

OWEN: Given all these challenges that you’ve mentioned so far I’m wondering why did you even stay committed to your goal of systematizing your business?

AJ: Because I believe in the long-term growth of the company. If it was just like a short-term thing for me I would just be doing everything myself. And when I’ve hired employees I wouldn’t have built systems, I wouldn’t have built protocols or the handbook that I mentioned. I do believe the company will be long-lasting and successful. It’s better to do it now, it’s better to systemize now and put the operating procedures in place now as oppose to doing it five years later because you knew you’re going to need those procedures anyway, so might as well do it now. I hope that makes sense. It’s almost like you’re losing future time and productivity if you delay it. I have a saying that I tell people. “Tomorrow’s not good enough so do it today.”

OWEN: I totally get that. Coming more recent in the story I’m wondering at what point in time did you feel like you had to systematize the entire business and it could actually run without you? When did you feel that way?

AJ: Yes. I would say early 2015 when our e-commerce website was fully functional. There were some other things that slowly led to systemization. But having the capability of the website to check out online, being able to pay for tutoring services online, and also being able to book appointments online has really helped us streamline our operations where clients don’t have to call as much as they did before. Of course you still have clients that still call but then again you also save employee time because all that information is upfront. And then the customer can make a conscious decision as far as whether they can go through with their service and go ahead and check it online. We also had a better tutor management software that we started working with that helped increase productivity and efficiency of our employees.

OWEN: What is the name of that product because people might be listening.

AJ: It’s called Teachworks. We’re using another called TutorPanel. They’re very specific to the education industry. Many people may not have heard of it. It’s industry specific. Some businesses like to use QuickBooks as a cover-all type of software to help manage all their operations. But my recommendation is to use something specific to your industry and that’s been working out well. And so we’ve constantly been researching better softwares to help us. The one recently, Teachworks has helped us increase efficiency because it’s allowed us to manage more calendar appointments, more tutoring appointments, streamlining more payments, payments that are completed by customers and being able to invoice customers more easily, keeping track of customer balances. It’s just been a lot easier to use and it’s simple user interface as oppose to old tutor management software. It’s always important to constantly research the better software to help systematize and run your business.

OWEN: One of the things I want to always do at every interview is give my listener a chance to go behind the scenes to see how your business actually works today. And to do this I’m going to use an analogy, imagine your business kind of like a conveyor belt. On one end is a parent who has a child who’s having difficulty learning. And on the other end that parent’s child has been transformed and now they’ve basically figured out how to learn because they went to you guy’s program and their parent is out there raving about you to all their different colleagues out there. But behind the scenes within your business are the different parts making this transformation happen. And so I just wanted to give the listener a walk through to the different parts of the business. And feel free to start from how you’ve even acquired the person in the first place as a customer.

AJ: The way we acquire customers is that a customer either will call, and then we give the information of what kind of… They’d tell us what kind of tutoring they need, the needs of the student. And then we can actually check out online for that family on their behalf that you either give her some credit card information or electronic check, and we complete their payment. And then we start arranging a tutor for that client. They could do that themselves like I mentioned, or they…

OWEN: How did they even hear about you guys in the first place? I’m just curious.

AJ: Most customers hear about us by searching online, Google, online search engines.

OWEN: So you have kind of like a search engine marketing like…

AJ: Yes.

OWEN: Okay, paid marketing in place to bring people in. Okay.

AJ: Right. We’ve hired, as I mentioned my online marketing manager he has expertise in SEO.

OWEN: Okay.

AJ: We’re doing a lot more organic search marketing as opposed to the paid because we believe in investing in the long-term instead of just the short-term, paid… That’s how we acquire customers. We also do, I guess you could say some guerrilla marketing as well. We do go face-to-face and hand out brochures to principals and counselors of schools. Of course we’ve built a name for ourselves in the cities that we operate so we do get quite a bit of word of mouth. Those have been the strongest avenues I would say is online search traffic, mostly Google, and then I would say word of mouth as well.

OWEN: So now they’re on your website take us from that point to the other parts of the system.

AJ: The next part after we acquire the customers is maintain the customers. Part of that, maintain the customer, is finding of course the best tutor for them and managing that tutor, and also managing the client. You’re managing almost two people if you will. You want to keep the customer happy, you want to keep the employee happy. And whatever each of those parties needs we want to make sure that we provide that to them, whether it’s resources, materials, books, and so forth. That’s kind of the specific process, acquire the customer, maintain the customer, and then also maintain the tutor. Of course we also have our employees that are administrators that manage those tutors. As the owner that’s my job, to make sure that the quality assurance is high and that the employees are completing their assigned duties and overall big projects.

OWEN: Besides the actual having the tutoring going on you mentioned during the pre-interview you have quality control. What does that entail?

AJ: As I mentioned, as a business owner our job is to make sure that our business name is the best name in the community that we serve. We want to make sure the quality of our service is high. And part of that is making sure that we invest in research and development, and creating a great product. We want to constantly make the product better. I think a lot of business owners might get lost and just constantly grow in the business, and maybe hiring good talent. But also we want to focus on making whatever product that you’re offering better. One of the ways we do that is that we constantly create our own original content. It’s our own original test preparation material for students to learn from. And then also systemization, automation is another part of it. So that’s another department I should say because you always want to make sure that as your business grows and as you wanted to sustain long-term you want to set-up systems and protocols in place for your employees to be able to come into your company and know exactly what to do. So the lead time in terms of them learning your business is pretty low. Bigger corporations might say it takes three months to train employee. We want to get that down to a couple of weeks, so then you don’t lose so much money in terms of training new people.

OWEN: You also mentioned during the pre-interview that you also have a part of your company that does data gathering. What exactly do they do there?

AJ: Data gathering is getting the results from your customers. You want to know how your business is doing by talking to your customers of course. In my case what kind of success have our students seen? Are they happy during school? Did they do well on their test that they’ve prepared for like an SAT. We want to gather that data to measure quantitative results and also qualitative. Our teachers are almost coaches for our students. So we not only help the students on an academic level but also on a social level as well. So they do have positive experience in their school with their improved behavior as well. And then the last part of the business who are also important part is accounting and the financial. In the business we like to say that accounting is a language of your business. As a business owner it’s important to look at that, to always keep up with the financials, and to make sure they’re sound and constantly reviewing them. That is also a very important department.

OWEN: And so I’m wondering, how do you even track and verify the results being delivered by your employees?

AJ: We do have tools that we use to manage tasks or work that’s completed by our tutors and our employees. So our tutors are independent contractors so we have the tutor management software called Teachworks. So with that we require tutors to enter in what they’ve accomplished in their tutoring sessions, or a few sentences about what they’ve done in their sessions. That way we have qualitative feedback as far as what happened in their session. If any problems were to arise we actually have some documentation of what they’ve completed. And then we also have for employees that are entering phone calls and doing follow-up calls with prospective clients. I keep track of that activity, the prospect of planned activity by looking at Ring Central, the voice over IP app that I mentioned earlier. I’m able to see the inbound and outbound calls. And they do know how to put the names of the people that they talk to on the application. I’m also able to see how long they’ve talked to these clients. That allows me to see it from anywhere really. I could look at that from the Cloud remotely anywhere. Those are a couple of ways that I’m able to keep track. We’re also going to start implementing employee productivity software. So that’s some larger corporations used to take snapshots of employees’ computer to keep their productivity levels high. It’s important to give employees breaks throughout their day. But that productivity software actually will better help us make sure our employees are on task. Employee productivity is something I think is a challenge of a lot of big corporations. But with a small business like ours when we have fewer employees it’s easier to manage.

OWEN: Since you have more free time I’m wondering which areas of the business you now focus on and why.

AJ: I focus on growth now. As I mentioned earlier the macro level besides the business like meeting with school principals and directors. And I’ve been doing some of the outreach myself to partner up with these principals and school directors to expand on the business. We’re also working with other companies that are in our industry, other tutoring companies to give referrals. I like to believe that there’s more than enough business out there for everybody. So that does help us partner up with other tutoring companies, even they could give us referrals. It’s best if the business owner goes out there and does that because it shows that of course the leaders are meeting. Those meetings are best handled by the leaders and business owners.

OWEN: I’m wondering what is the next stage of growth for your business, what do you plan to achieve next, and why?

AJ: I do want to start building my own software. We’ve already developed a markup of our own tutor management software. I mentioned Teachworks before but this will break away from the traditional software that’s out there because there are still some processes that need automation like student testing. We have students that take practice SAT with us. They have to enter their answers online from a completely separate website. And in order for us to track those results we have to go through a completely different website than our tutor management software. And then the data is all mixed up in different places and so we have to go hunt for it. So that’s an example of one way we can help streamline our business even more, is to have our tutor management software have all the different elements of our business in one place. That software will also allow us to pay out our tutors directly from software, so it’ll help us do bank-to-bank transfers directly from a software to make payrolls. That’s something we’re not able to do before. But when you create your own software of course the sky’s the limit in terms of flexibility. So you could design it the way you wanted to. And then my goal is to also develop a private school management software that helps schools manage their students better and manage the progress of their students better, and manage attendance better. And just running a private school I’m able to see exactly what goes behind what are the important facets behind the school and what are some needs out there. What are some ways that you could better run your organization and have more time to help grow the organization, invest in research and development instead of a lot of employee time and just managing it. My intention is to sell that as a software as a subscription app. The tutor management software that I mentioned, I want to be able to license that out as a monthly recurring subscription service, and then also to a private school as a monthly subscription service as well. So that’s my biggest step in terms of… If you want to talk about automation, when you get into just the technology I think it’s the best automation that you can have at any industry when you’re doing it with full technology.

OWEN: That’s awesome. As we come to the end of the interview I’m wondering, for the listener who’s been listening all the way to this point. what will you say is the very next step that you think they should take in order to get started with transforming their company so that they can actually run without them and be systematized just like yours is?

AJ: I would say for the business owners to look for how technology can help them power their business. You want to systematize your customer relationship management software, you want to systemize your incoming prospective calls in terms of how do you want your employees to answer those calls, what do you want them to say. And then you want to systematize how your financials are put together. There’s still a handful of businesses that might be doing their books on Excel Charter. They give their accountant a whole bunch of receipts. And the best thing in technology like QuickBooks or Sage, those are some softwares that will help you manage your customers and manage your financials better. It’s important to implement softwares whenever possible.

OWEN: I’m wondering, is there a question that you were wishing I would’ve asked you that I didn’t ask you during this interview? And if so go ahead and post the question and the answer as well.

AJ: I would say if you could create your own software to help you systemize your business which one would you create and why?

OWEN: Okay. Is that the question or is that the answer?

AJ: That is the question. My answer was kind of mentioned earlier. For me the answer would be to create a software that helps manage my own business better.

OWEN: I think to that extent to that very question itself is it’s easier when you’ve actually gone through the process of doing the business manually, so you know exactly going in if you were to build a software that automates the business and runs the entire operations at least you would have had to gone through what you have gone through right now. So you end up building a software that just works as oppose to building a software that has so much bloat and so much things that are not even needed.

AJ: Yeah. And it has so many features that are lacking too, right? And each business is so unique. In order for you to build your own unique system or software you want to just build it yourself.

OWEN: That’s awesome. AJ thanks for doing the interview. Now I’m speaking to you the listener. If you’ve enjoyed this interview what I want you to do is actually go ahead and leave us your honest review on iTunes. And to do that go to this URL that’s going to redirect you to iTunes. It’s sweetprocess.com/iTunes. Hopefully you’ll leave us a 5-star review. If you know another entrepreneur who will find value from listening to this interview please feel free to share the interview with them. And finally, AJ thanks for doing the interview.

AJ: Okay Owen.

OWEN: And we’re done.

 

Noteworthy items Mentioned in this Episode:

  1. RingCentral for VoIP
  2. Yesware for tracking communication

 

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Here are 3 Steps to Take After Listening to the Interview:

  1. Look for software that can help you power your business.
  2. Implement software that helps you systematize accounting and customer relationship management.
  3. Build your own software when you have the resources to be able to.

 

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