Advice I would have given 20 year old me

Here’s my list.

  • work smarter, this doesn’t necessarily mean working harder or longer hours. Work out when people are taking advantage of your good nature
  • don’t choose to work away from home so much, think of all the wasted time
  • don’t treat work like a competition in which you need to come first, build lots of friendships and alliances
  • take your MBA in your twenties, not thirties
  • work out how to spend your time, what’s important and whats not – don’t sweat the small stuff
  • dont lose your temper, you’ll feel and look stupid
  • don’t buy stupid mid life crisis cars
  • start your own business earlier
  • realise that it’s not all about the paycheck, it’s about living a fruitful and happy life
  • spend as much time as you can with the kids

Ten bits of advice I have given to my kids

I see it as a part of being a ‘good dad’ to give your kids fatherly advice from time to time, to  make sure that they stay on the right track.

Here is my list:

1. Be happy. In your home life and at work. Love and be loved. Life is short, so make the most of it. If you are unhappy, change it. Know when things are rescuable and have the sense to work out when they are not.

2. Get good friends. Ones that stick with you through the years. Be a good listener and take time to meet up with them.

3. Always give it 100% whatever you are doing. That goes for work and your social life – you will get more out of it, honestly. Be patient. Always do what’s right. Don’t stand by and watch when the wrong thing happens.

4. Care about what is happening in the world. Think about politics – don’t be tribal about it, think about your values and vote for the party that most closely matches them. Always vote, even if it’s for the least bad candidate.

5. Treat education like a long term quest for knowledge, not a short-term goal to get that first leg up in life.

6. Try not to do anything stupid. Think twice before you do something that you might regret later. Don’t take that as an excuse not to push the boundaries a bit. Stay within the law.

7. Enjoy sport. Find something you can do and are passable at – and stick with it. Pick a sports team, follow their results and watch matches when you can. Care about what happens to them.

8. Treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself. Care about people with less going for themselves than you.

9. Be accepting of other people’s opinions and beliefs.

10. Family comes first. Take time to listen to them. Take time to be with them. Try not to get too frustrated with them.

Finally, make some time for your parents in their dotage – remember I was like you once, and I wasn’t perfect either.

Online tutoring in the UK: the current state of play

As some of my readers already know, I am the co-founder of Tutorhub, the specialist online tutoring website based in Bristol, UK.

I last posted back in September 2011, about the emerging web businesses starting to focus on the online tutoring market in the UK. Back then there were a few businesses: Home Tutoring Online, Brightspark, Dizeo, Maths Doctor, Exam Fox, Live Tutor and Meteor Online Learning. So in the intervening period, what has changed?

Well quite alot actually. We have some new entrants:

  1. Itutormaths, part of Nelson Thornes (along with Bond 11+), specialising in maths and focusing on group learning online
  2. Mytutor, part of AQA, focusing on maths and english
  3. Tute, which is offering homework help and online tutoring

There have been a number of changes. Exiting from the market are Brightspark, Home Tutoring Online, Dizeo and MyTutor. Whilst Exam Fox are now the Tutor Crowd.

We at Tutorhub have been working hard at working out what customers want and how best to achieve product : market fit. The obvious question, is has anyone else ‘nailed’ the customer proposition, to which the honest answer I think is ‘no’ – this is a classic ‘new product in a new market’.

There are three things that I believe we all have to get over.

1. There is a perception amongst some customers that online tutoring ‘must be’ in some way inferior to traditional face to face tutoring. We have conducted extensive research that demonstrates that this is every bit as effective. We will be expanding on this in due course.

2. The online tutoring technology isn’t particularly appealing to students or tutors, based on generic meeting based third party platforms. There are no compelling product delivery platforms out there at the moment in my opinion, which is why we will be launching a new online tutoring platform soon.

3. Pricing is a barrier. People expect online tutoring to be cheaper than regular face to face tutoring. The Tutorhub platform shows a hourly price range not that dissimilar to face to face tutoring. This does not create a compelling reason to swap from a face to face to an online tutor. Tute’s £5 for 45 minutes online tutoring, is a move in the right direction I think.

So what do I see the next 12 months bringing? I think four things:

  1. This is currently an embryonic market place, and I expect to see increased interest and take up. We are further away from a tipping point than I might like, but things are moving in the right direction
  2. New business models, clearly focusing on customer needs and expectations – what currently flies in the UK will be different to that which is working in India or the US. Once the offer is proven in the UK, then it can be rolled out internationally
  3. Differentiation based on delivering superior levels of customer service
  4. More new entrants and more exits

This is an interesting market, which I think will develop and grow. I think that we at Tutorhub have the plan to deliver the most compelling customer offer – watch this space.

Things that make me laugh

I was asked the other day to say a bit about what I find funny and the things that make me laugh. 

Here are five things that make me laugh, and maybe why I find them funny. 

1. My kids being artful. I know that artful isn’t really a word we use these days, but my nan used it to describe us when we were kids if we had a (transparent) alterior motive. So for example, the kids wanting to take the dog on a long walk or buy a newspaper when they really just want to go to the shops to buy sweets. Walking the dog seems like fair reward for a mars bar or two, so fair exchange in my book. But it’s fun seeing them construct stories. 

2. Irishness. My father came from County Cork and only those with Irish parents actually fully understand Irish humour. Television programmes like Mrs Browns Boys and Father Ted crack me up, or should that be ‘craic’.

3. Pompous people and politicians. Need I say more?

4. Silly things that happen to me. You have to be able to take a joke. 

5. Watching old family videos. Peering into a time gone by with my own family makes me realise how much laughter there is within families. Hard not to laugh at the kids when they were learning to speak or at primary school. Funnier still is the faces that they pull now when they watch the videos. 

As I write this, sitting in the garden, the dog is trying to eat a mushroom. That makes me laugh too. 

Next time someone asks me I will have an answer. 

What makes you laugh?

Belated new years resolutions

Okay I know its almost the end of February already, and if New Years resolutions are to mean anything then you should start them on January 1st. But here are my three resolutions for 2012.

1. Get fit. This means losing some weight and getting active. Progress report: Next to no weight lost, but I am seeing Ross Elliot, a personal trainer who has made me realise that this is an achievable goal. So I have joined a gym, and this year is the year that I will get back to my fighting weight and fitness.

2. Be there. This means being there more for my family. Not that I think that I am a bad dad you understand. The time was when I was rarely at home, and these days are now well in the past. I just need to try to be more understanding and supportive. Progress report: trying my best. I am really pleased that my eldest son is working really hard toward his GCSE’s this year, I can’t wait to be there and share his excitement when he opens his results letter and starts Sixth Form.

3. Make my business more successful. We are a tech startup, so maybe some of the usual measures of success e.g. profit, take second place to growing user and customer numbers. Progress report: signs are really positive. Our online tutoring website Tutorhub is getting traction in the market-place. This is the resolution that I am most certain of meeting.

Oh yes, there is a fourth resolution too – to blog more. Which is where I started this blog post….

Online tutoring UK: new entrants

Before I launch into my latest research into UK based online tutoring businesses, I should declare that I am a co-founder of the UK based start-up Tutorhub.

I blogged eight months ago, back in December 2010 about UK based online tutoring websites and the embryonic nature of the online tutoring marketplace. Since then we have seen three new businesses enter the market:

  1. MyTutor, which is interesting as it is owned by AQA exam board
  2. Itutormaths, owned by the educational publisher Nelson Thornes
  3. Tutorme, of which I must admit to knowing very little
It is interesting that two of these businesses are part of publishing businesses. I can see the logic in branching out into online tutoring, as an additional line of business cross-sold from their existing educational content.
I suspect that many more corporates will enter the market in the next year. The more businesses the better, as much more needs to be done to explain the concept of online tutoring to UK parents.The good thing about growing markets is that there is room for new entrants. The key to success will be getting the offer and business model right.
I hope that you found this post interesting, and I am happy to open up this blog to anyone interested in this subject.
Addendum: By December 2013,  both mytutor and itutormaths had ceased trading.
About Tutorhub:

For those of you that don’t know, Tutorhub is a new online tutoring service that makes it quicker and easier to find and access UK based, CRB / DBS checked tutors, whatever the subject. Tutoring takes place online, only as and when it’s needed and is backed by best practice child safety features. Designed for the Facebook generation, Tutorhub includes an open Q&A feature and archive of previously asked questions.