Tutora – the ups and downs

The ups and downs
The ups and downs

Tutora is an online marketplace for students and tutors. SME caught up with co-founder Scott Woodley to find out what challenges the business has had to overcome…

What have been your biggest challenges?

Definitely the workload. We initially set out with the idea of growing from city to city, proving and improving the concept as we went, but the business has rocketed, which has been amazing, but has meant that we’ve been worked to the bone. There’s just two of us serving over a thousand tutors, as well as trying to code, build our market presence and do all the general everyday admin. It’s been a tough slog, but one we’ve loved and are incredibly excited about.

We’ve overcome this by largely automating against the biggest problem we’ve faced. Our sales funnel was pretty leaky to begin with, as the site was poorly signposted and less intuitive than we wanted. The only solution to that on a day-to-day basis was to ring people directly and either talk them through the process, or step in and complete tasks for them. We had a massive list of the pain points for our customers, which we organised based on how they impacted on conversions and how much time they took from our working hours. Working through this list, we’ve created automated solutions and better signposting, which has meant that at each junction, new releases have both improved customer experience and satisfaction, which equals better conversions, whilst also freeing up more of our time to work on other areas.

What have been your greatest successes?

We truly believe that we have built a site that people really love. We’ve helped hundreds of children learn and families, who might otherwise have struggled, find a tutor. That’s certainly what we’re most proud of.

On a business footing, our biggest success has been the growth we’ve demonstrated to date. We set out with the aim of growing a sustainable business in Sheffield and had the target of spreading geographically, from city to city in the North of England. Instead, we quickly realised that we had a product which is massively scalable so began recruiting new tutors over a larger network of cities. This has allowed us to build a pretty sweet revenue chart. The moment we truly new that we were on to something was when we hit 100 lessons a week through the site in just four months - a target we’d set ourselves for 9 months in.

What are your top tips for SMEs?

Do things that don’t scale, listen to your customers and be smart in prioritising your tasks.

We’re massive fans of the material produced by Y Combinator and Sam Altman - every startup and SME should read his playbook: http://playbook.samaltman.com/ - the biggest thing we learnt from this was to do things that don’t scale. We’ve done some hilarious things which we wouldn’t dream of doing now, but were vital in helping us grow. We hand delivered 2,000 flyers around Sheffield, our home city, which brought in three new students, and we even stood in the local park, grabbing parents (not literally) to sell to. Those things could never scale, but that let us get started.

Listening to your customers and prioritising tasks goes hand in hand. We have a list of the issues our customers have faced and their suggestions for new features. We merge this into our list of the biggest time drains for ourselves and this lets us decide what to work on next. Any SME will face the problem of having limited resources to tackle these issues, which means prioritising is key, so you need a logical way of deciding which tasks demand the most focus.