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Many lessons for Tutor Doctor operator


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Jon-Anthony Lui

You were young when you made the change from corporate employee to franchisee. How did you manage that learning curve?

I was as green as you can be when I started. I was 25 years old, the only experience I had was cold calling. I wouldn’t even say I was great at that, though it did help me communicate. Since I didn’t know much, I just had to soak up information from other people—the management of Tutor Doctor, people that built businesses, my old boss. When I had a dilemma, I asked like 10 different people. That’s what really helped me out early on, just being relentless and asking for help.

That network effect is why you got into franchising, isn’t it?

Isn’t that really why everyone goes into franchising? There’s that support that isn’t comparable, you can’t find that if you just open up your own shop. In a franchise everyone shares. The success of the franchisee is the success of the franchise overall. That’s one of the major reasons I started a franchise instead of my own thing.

What was the biggest turning point in your business?

When my wife joined me, that was huge, that happened early on. I was like drowning in paperwork because I was just pounding the pavement and I was terrible on the back-end stuff, I’m not the greatest in terms of process. Another would be when I got better clarity on values, and how I needed to hire on values and do performance checks on those values.

Now you’re really invested in culture and values. How did you come to see the power there?

Part of it was identifying for us what were the key points of engagement that we know really make an impact with the client. Now everyone knows what the values are and what we’re trying to achieve, and stuff like how we welcome a family to work with us. But we really only came up with that this year after eight years, so sometimes you don’t see things as clearly in the beginning.

Nicholas Upton

Staff writer Nicholas Upton asks what makes multi-unit operators tick—and presents their slightly edited answers in this column in each issue. To suggest a subject, email nupton@franchisetimes.com.

What do you think made you a successful entrepreneur?

It’s hard to boil down. Determination and passion definitely make a difference, and constantly wanting to improve. I’m always hungry to get better, I’m never satisfied with my current situation. But it’s one thing to be successful and another thing to be significant. Success is identified differently by different people: for some it’s money, for some it’s time, for some it’s quality of life. I’d like to have flexibility and options.

What’s your advice to other franchisees or entrepreneurs?

Especially for young people, I find that we just need to humble ourselves a little bit and be willing to learn and not have assumptions that we know everything. I find that sometimes with our generation or those younger than me, we see ourselves as invincible. But sometimes we don’t realize the work that it takes to get there. Nothing comes easy, right? You have to be willing to learn all those roles because there are no shortcuts.

Even with our students, eh, they’ll just say that I’m not good at math. Then you find them a tutor where they’re able to explain how they learn and it becomes fun for them and they realize they can actually do it. They realize they need to apply a little more effort. It’s the same thing in business.

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