TBS spoke with the head of online learning wizards YourTutor.com.au, Jack Goodman, who taught us that in digital landscape, face-to-face contact is still paramount.
TBS: Good morning, Mr Goodman. Can you please tell our audience a little about your background, and how you became the CEO of YourTutor.com.au?
JG: I founded YourTutor.com.au in 2003, having relocated to Australia from New York. I saw a gap in the market here for online, on-demand, one-to-one learning support and decided to create YourTutor. I had a background in education technology and startups going back to the mid-1990s, so I had an idea of what I was in for. At the same time, building a business that was effectively defining a new category of learning service proved more than a little challenging. My wife and I also had a young family – so the challenges were multi-layered, to say the least!
What is the one thing you wish clients would understand about YourTutor.com.au the first time they may connect with you?
I’d like – and hope – that the students who use YourTutor understand that we’re trying to address a very different problem to traditional tutoring. YourTutor is all about helping students at the precise moment they get stuck, need help, are revising for an exam or want to confirm what they’ve learned. In other words, it’s the opposite of traditional tutoring, whereby students schedule an appointment (usually weekly) for a set period of time to study one subject.
We cover all the core academic subjects, and our mission is to help students who are stuck to “get unstuck.” That’s why we deliver YourTutor on demand – with no appointments needed – and staff it with curriculum experts from 3pm to midnight, every week, Sunday-Friday.
What has been the toughest obstacle for YourTutor.com.au to battle since you launched?
By far the greatest challenge we’ve faced is educating the world that there’s a new way to get help when you’re stuck with your studies. That goes for everyone, from students to teachers, principals, education directors and vice-chancellors. When I think back to those early days in 2003 through 2005, I’m amazed that we persevered long enough to bring our first few dozen clients on board.
It was really hard work!
How do you manage your own schedule? Do you have any daily rituals you could share with us?
As our business has grown, I’ve realised that my role has needed to change. Where I used to think every day about the nuts and bolts of what needed to get done if we were going to make it through the week/month/quarter, now I try to ensure I keep a much broader perspective on the strategic direction of the business. Every day I ask myself a couple of key questions. Do we have all the right people in the right roles? Are we tracking toward our annual targets and milestones? To do this, I make every effort not to get caught up in the weeds of endless emails and electronic communications. I also try to make time to have face-to-face or at least video conference catch-ups with all the key people on our team on a regular, scheduled basis.
What would be your main piece of advice for aspiring CEO’s/entrepreneurs?
We may live in a digital world, and you may be building a digital product to disrupt an analogue incumbent. Even so, don’t get so deeply focused on the screen of your smartphone that you lose sight of the big picture. Face-to-face meetings with clients and customers are infinitely more valuable than firing off another email at 11pm. And while we are also obsessed with “big data,” the personal connection associated with a human interaction is, in fact, more valuable than ever. Take the time to listen and consider the thoughts, ideas and suggestions of your colleagues and customers. You’ll be amazed how much better your insights into your business will be.