Maximize the Potential of Your Tutoring Staff

The best businesses are dynamic organizations that maximize the potential of their personnel. As such, a tutoring or test prep business that brings the best out of its staff will find success.

Full disclosure: I have no business degree, nor do I run a major Fortune 500 company. What I do have is a life-long love of the professional wrestling business.

Yes, you read that correctly: leg drops, body slams and cage matches. That professional wrestling business. Believe it or not, most tutoring companies have a lot to learn from the world inside the squared circle.

To some, pro wrestling is nothing more than a soap opera of oversized acrobats throwing each other around in their underwear. In actuality, a behind-the-scenes look at the wrestling business provides insights into how organizations can effectively evaluate talent and put employees in the best positions to succeed.

For owners of tutoring and test prep companies, optimizing how you use your workforce can strengthen your business in a variety of ways; failing to do so could put your company down for the count.

Unleashing Your Tutor’s Strengths

Rock before and after

Sometimes it takes a bit of effort to uncover a diamond in the rough. In the wrestling business, this type of metamorphosis happens often.

Before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a wrestling superstar and Hollywood A-lister, he was the happy-go-lucky, baby-blue-tasseled, Rocky Maivia. Fans were regularly booing him out of arenas. Before Mark Calloway became the iconic Undertaker, he wrestled as a number of unmemorable characters like Mean Mark Callous.

In both of these cases, management took steps to get the most out of employees that were not quite hitting the mark. For The Rock, the company listened to the fans and ditched the smile, the pastel streamers, and checkered shoulder pads turning Rocky Maivia into a full-fledged bad guy for fans to really boo. Success followed.

Undertaker before and after

Likewise, Mark Calloway’s immense size and menacing appearance were decidedly better suited for the larger-than-life Undertaker persona (essentially the grim reaper incarnate) rather than the generic, (read: forgettable) Mean Mark character. The result was one of the most storied careers in wrestling history.

Maximizing the potential of your staff can present similar challenges. Just because a tutor is capable of teaching certain types of students and content, does not mean that you are utilizing their talents in the best possible ways.

As such, it is crucial to evaluate tutors both as a part of the hiring process and throughout their employment. Having regular opportunities for discussions and observations (both formal and informal) can help paint a clearer picture of which tutors’ strengths to home in on for the best fit.

Be sure staff management is an ongoing and dynamic process. Crafting a tutor’s client load should be based on putting your staff members in the best positions to promote successful student growth. By taking into account information from client feedback, tutor self-assessments, and regular staff evaluations, you should be able to create the most favorable matchups between tutors, students, and content.

Taking on the Giants by Making Things Personal

Rey vs Khali

World Wrestling Entertainment (formerly the WWF) has been at the top of the professional wrestling food chain for decades. They have a huge market share, copious amounts of talented employees, and the financial clout that comes with being a publicly traded company.

That being said, there are plenty of smaller wrestling companies that have been able to go toe-to-toe with the WWE and carve out their own niche of the market. The keys to their success: finding their lanes, making the most out of the talent they have at their disposal, and connecting with their audiences on a personal level.

One of my favorite wrestling brands growing up was a small, regional upstart in Philadelphia known as ECW. Despite being outmatched by national competitors with larger budgets and more resources, the small wrestling promotion was able to cultivate a following and make a lasting impact on fans like me. We were looking for something different from what the bigger companies were offering; ECW provided.

For smaller tutoring operations, it can feel daunting to try to contend with the Princeton Reviews and Kaplan’s of the world. Trying to do so can end up being a fool’s errand with the wrong approach.

In reality, small tutoring companies (much like smaller, independent wrestling companies) have some advantages over larger, corporate operations. For one, smaller companies can be more flexible and dynamic when it comes to meeting client needs. This, in turn, can lead to a more personalized approach than some of the larger, corporate competitors can offer.

When evaluating and supporting your tutoring staff, make it a point to focus on the personal services you are offering your clients. This could mean added accommodations for learning disabilities or anxieties, more targeted and personalized practice materials, or simply making the extra effort to break through students’ tough exteriors.

Matching tutors to the correct students should be as much about cultivating strong working relationships as it is catering to tutors’ particular content strengths. Make it personal!

Behind the Scenes

In some cases, your tutors may have hidden value beyond working directly with students. Tapping this value effectively can give you a leg up on your competition.

While ECW eventually shut its doors, one of the secrets of how the small company was able to thrive during its heyday was a dedicated staff willing to wear many hats to ensure the show would go on.

For instance, long-time ECW champion Taz was not only a menacing grappler inside the ring, but he also designed the company’s T-shirts. Hated, foul-mouthed wrestler Buh-Buh Ray Dudley was also the man behind the scenes responsible for booking the venues for ECW shows. 

Along those lines, finding ways to tap into the non-instructional talents of your tutoring staff can be a great way to improve your operation’s efficiency and promote a sense of professional loyalty.

Consider sourcing capable talent internally before looking to hire additional staff to tackle tasks like marketing, web design, lead generation, administration, or community outreach. Not only can you save money (offering an existing employee additional compensation will typically be more cost-effective than hiring additional employees), but you can also demonstrate a confidence in your staff. This gesture will not go unnoticed. The time and money you invest in your team pay significant dividends in the form of buy-in for future initiatives.  

During slow tutoring seasons, this type of professional differentiation (if managed properly) can make it easier to retain quality staff when there are fewer students to go around. And even during busy months, some tutors will eagerly take you up on project-based employment (i.e. marketing, social media, community outreach, workflow development, etc.)

Furthermore, by establishing a pattern of promoting from within, you offer tutors a chance for upward mobility within the company that can make working for you more alluring than working for a massive, faceless competitor.

In what ways have you been able to unlock your tutors’ inner champion? Share your experiences and advice with our readers here and on social media!

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Matt McCorkle