The disruption of the schooling system has been one of the most talked-about stories during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impact on tutors and tutoring businesses has flown largely under the radar.
Michael Black, managing director of NSW-based tutoring franchise Success Tutoring, has been dealing with a 20% loss in customers since the coronavirus crisis started, as cash-strapped parents tighten their household budgets.
But despite this, the business owner, who started his company at the age of 17 and has grown it to 100 staff, is upbeat about the future of his industry and the prospects for new types of one-on-one learning.
“Due to our existing software and infrastructure, we were able to transition to online tutoring quickly, which parents were happy to continue with,” Black says.
“The company itself didn’t experience a big hit as a direct result of COVID-19, [however] we did notice a hesitation in investors who were interested in franchising with Success Tutoring. But rather than being disheartened by this, we decided to really focus on perfecting our franchise model.”
It’s the most disrupted school year in modern history for tens of thousands of graduating high school students, and that means there’s no shortage of families willing to invest in ensuring their children have access to the best advice, so long as tutors are able to keep up with these COVIDSafe times.
“We have focused a lot on integrating advanced technology into our business model, to not only simplify and automate administrative processes, but actively engage students and parents with the brand,” Black says.
Digital tutoring has been the pillar of Black’s success during the pandemic, leveraging a digital kiosk system to get customers flowing through to franchisees, who are then able to access educational video content through the company’s online platform.
“We aim to be at the forefront of the educational motivational revolution which transforms the way students receive education in Australia,” Black says.
Encouraged by his digital-first model, Black now plans to expand the franchising side of his business as Australia recovers from the pandemic, hoping to provide largely younger tutors looking to start their own businesses with a platform for growth.
“During COVID-19, we’ve had the opportunity to really perfect the franchise model and we have had a number of enquiries from individuals and families who are interested in starting their own business.
“So, we’re hoping to jump straight into franchising as the economy recovers, because so many people want to work for themselves,” Black says.
So far, the business has three tutoring locations in Sydney, including a Barangaroo headquarters that was opened at the beginning of this year, but as the business increasingly moves into franchising, the network is slated to become more decentralised.
As a 21-year-old himself, all of Black’s employees so far have been under the age of 25, largely university students looking to generate an income while they study.
In that vein, franchising makes sense for Black.
After all, university students are generally looking for sustained income channels over three to four years, and value is built on personal branding.