Not-Einstein Reveals the True Meaning of Groundhog Day (the Movie)

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If you haven't seen the movie Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, then SPOILER ALERT: it's better than your favorite movie! It just is.

With that established, let's take a look at the true meaning of the American Classic, Groundhog Day (#6 and #34 on IMDb's Top 100 List). And while we're at it, let's keep an eye out for lessons that may help independent tutors who just can't seem to grow their companies beyond a band of three or four tutors. 

Seriously, how good is Groundhog Day (96% "Fresh" — Rotten Tomatoes)?

Since its debut in 1993, the movie has inspired an entire cult of followers who descend upon Punxatawney, PA, spending hundreds of dollars on local hotels, just to be part of an event that makes the Kentucky Derby seem like a marathon. Case in point, hotel rooms in Punxatawney are currently going for around $450/night. That's pretty impressive, considering you can get a hotel room right now for just $340/night in Houston, TX, where The Super Bowl will be played this weekend.

Technically the holiday predates the movie. Even so, it should be noted that the the holiday was officially renamed "Groundhog Day" in honor of Groundhog Day, the movie, on Groundhog Day, the holiday, February 2, 1997. Thus, the holiday is now officially based on the movie which previously had been based on the holiday, formerly and once again known as Groundhog Day. Also, none of that is true. But it should be. Perhaps it's best if you just watch the trailer (a few times) before we continue.

Or, if you have some bizarre aversion to movie trailers, then here's a great synopsis from Mark Deming: 

Bill Murray plays Phil, a TV weatherman working for a local station in Pennsylvania but convinced that national news stardom is in his grasp. Phil displays a charm and wit on camera that evaporates the moment the red light goes off; he is bitter, appallingly self-centered, and treats his co-workers with contempt, especially his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot). On February 2, 1992, Phil, Rita, and Larry are sent on an assignment that Phil especially loathes: the annual Groundhog Day festivities in Punxsutawney, PA, where the citizens await the appearance of Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog who will supposedly determine the length of winter by his ability to see his own shadow. Phil is eager to beat a hasty retreat, but when a freak snowstorm strands him in Punxsutawney, he wakes up the next morning with the strangest sense of déjà vu: he seems to be living the same day over again. The next morning it happens again, and then again. Soon, no matter what he does, he's stuck in February 2, 1992; not imprisonment nor attempted suicide nor kidnapping the groundhog gets him out of the loop. But the more Phil relives the same day, the more he's forced to look at other people's lives, and something unusual happens: he begins to care about others. He starts to respect people, he tries to save the life of a homeless man, and he discovers that he's falling in love with Rita and therefore wants to be someone that she could love in return. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


As a test prep tutor, stuck in a loop of trying and failing and trying and failing to grow your tutoring business, you should see a lesson in this. Perhaps a few.

For starters, Murray's character, Phil, can't grow as a person until he realizes that he can't always be the star of the show. He experiences more success in his career and life once he begins to treat his co-workers as equals. Please don't take that the wrong way, all you "guru tutors" out there. I don't mean to imply that any of you are bitter or self-centered. My only point is that selling yourself as a "guru" will ultimately hinder your ability to grow your tutoring company. True, you'll always find customers for an ACT guru or a "Platinum Level SAT Tutor." And no doubt, you'll get referred to new clients by name. But you won't be able to convince that new referral to work with your newly hired tutor. That family will want to work with the specific tutor that was referred to them by name.

The lesson is simple: you cannot build and sustain a growing organization around the "guru + support staff" model. I won't get into all the reasons why in this post, but you can read all about them in my FREE ebook from last summer, Seven Marketing Mistakes Tutoring Companies Make - and How to Avoid Them.


Even if you've already read it, I'm recommending — appropriately enough — that you read it again. And like Phil, you may find that focusing on actively facilitating the success of your tutors will not only make them happier but also help them feel invested in sticking around and helping you grow your business.

Of course, the broader lesson from Groundhog Day is that repeating the same mistakes over and over again will beget the same results. This is best illustrated by the quote,"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result," which is often misattributed to Einstein. It's also sometimes attributed to Ben Franklin or Mark Twain, neither of whom could be reached for comment. But for good measure, let's also attribute it to Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Plato.

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The point is, regardless of who spoke, penned, or engraved those words, the value of the statement is self-evident beyond its mere affiliation with the person who uttered it. This further illustrates why the guru model of test prep tutoring is inherently flawed.

This is to say that the value of the tutoring should never be entirely dependent on the tutor delivering it. That value should be self-apparent regardless of whether the tutor is a "Platinum Tutor" or a "Bronze Tutor." In order to achieve this, however, you must shift your focus from building value into the tutors themselves, and instead focus on developing methods of delivering consistent value.

To be clear, this does not mean abandoning the philosophy of customizing your tutoring to meet the needs of each student. On the contrary, we at Clear Choice Test Prep believe that individualized instruction is vital to maximizing score improvements. This means you must implement the powerful tools for tutors that enable them to effectively deliver the customized test prep courses that parents and students demand.

Stop using the guru persona as a symbol of that value. Start demonstrating that value through the use of powerful analytical tools that enable you to demonstrate and quantify the value of your tutoring. And as a bonus, you'll be able to spend more time tutoring and less time honing your sales pitch.

To ignore this lesson is to keep doing what you've been doing, which most assuredly will keep getting you what you've got. Or will it? Because underlying not-Einstein's quote is the flawed assumption that nothing around you ever changes. We know that's not true.

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You don't always wake up on February 2, 1992. And your radio alarm clock doesn't always blare "I've Got You Babe" at 6:00 AM. (Seriously, if you haven't seen Groundhog Day, you really should.) And your competition won't always be stuck using the same tutoring materials and techniques that were everyone used... on February 2, 1992.

So really it's more accurate to say that "what you've got" is the best you could hope to get — unless you consider new ways to improve your test prep tutoring and grow your business.

And that, my friends, is the true meaning of Groundhog Day... the movie, explained with a little help from Not-Einstein.  

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Each week we examine ways to help you become a better tutor, increase test prep score improvements, drive more tutoring referrals, and grow your business. And from time to time, we'll even share links to FREE resources for tutors and test prep professionals. Today, we invite you to take another look at a the classic, Seven Marketing Mistakes Tutoring Companies Make - and How to Avoid them.  


If you'd like to learn more about how Clear Choice Test Prep can help you grow your tutoring company using our 100% custom branded test prep system, please sign up for a software demo. We look forward to speaking with you!

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