Tucson, Arizona | Published:
SMALL BUSINESS MAKEOVER A LOCAL
BUSINESS COUNSELOR OFFERS ADVICE / BY TIANA VELEZ • ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tiana Velez: Hiring help adds focus as tutoring service grows
Benjie Sanders / Arizona Daily Star
Rodriguez, owner of
Tutoring Solutions, sometimes holds
small tutoring sessions here in
Javalina's Coffee and Friends, in the
Rita Ranch area. Both children and
adults are clients of Rodriguez's
● Cheryl Vallejos is president and
CEO of Endorse Success LLC and Prime Leaders
Community. As the author of four books on leadership and with more than 22 years
of experience in business management, her mission is helping small
big profits. She can be reached at 730-4456 or cheryl@PrimeLeaders.com.
information, visit www.PrimeLeaders.com or
● The business:
Tutoring Solutions LLC, www.tutoring solutions.net, 250-9014.
● The owner:
● The services:
One-on-one and group session tutoring for children and adults.
● The challenge:
Prioritize business tasks to bring balance to the business and to
focus on its growth.
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Finding that perfect work-life balance isn't
always first on the list of priorities for a solo entrepreneur. Debbie Rodriguez, who owns a tutoring business, knew the
needed balance existed but did not have the time to achieve it. She wanted her
business to grow, and sometimes logged 70 or more hours a week working on it. She wanted
to learn how to build it the right way without risking burnout.
In a written list of 10
things Debbie Rodriguez wanted to
accomplish with her business, three revolved around the ideas of focus and
As to-do lists go, it's
relatively simple and honest, peppered with reflections of a business owner who
hopes to overcome growth issues.
In 2003, Rodriguez formed Tutoring Solutions LLC, which started out as "just me doing math
tutoring," she said.
Rodriguez had been a teacher with Tucson Unified School District for more than 10 years and
later worked as an educational consultant for firms such as Misys Healthcare Systems and Prentice Hall.
When she finally decided
to go out on her own, the plan had been to start small. Rodriguez chose to focus on providing one-on-one tutoring services for children in all subject
areas. Prices depend on the type of package purchased; they run from four to 12
weeks and include two one-hour sessions each week.
Rodriguez handles the initial consultation with the
family and, depending on children's specific academic needs, will assign them
to one of her 10 associate tutors or handle it herself. In
either case, the family will have weekly consultations with Rodriguez over the
phone to make sure things are going well.
expanded into a full-service tutoring agency, offering
programs for adults and providing small-group sessions. But
getting there wreaked havoc on Rodriguez's personal schedule.
"I worked all the time. There
were no vacations, no set schedules or hours. There was no
balance," she admitted. "The systems, they were there. But, I don't
know, they were rough."
Rodriguez was full of ideas for programs she wanted to
implement and ways to market the business. But she'd get bogged down by less
urgent business tasks and lose sight of her goal. At times like those, she
would question whether her business was on the right track.
"I'd think, 'Am I working on the things that
I need to be working on?' " she
asked. "I found that when I worked alone on my
business, it was hard to stay focused and extend myself to greater
Rodriguez had a business plan, but she needed to get
things in order so she could develop it the way she wanted
Debbie's creativity, it was hard for her to keep track of
all the different directions she wanted to go and the great programs she wanted
to start," said Cheryl Vallejos,
a business coach.
"As we started
clarifying those goals, we slowed down enough to put them down in order," she said.
The process also
involved determining which tasks needed to be done immediately and which could
be handled by someone other than Rodriguez. Delegating responsibility for administrative duties
would allow her to better manage her daily work flow.
"Seeing how fast
Debbie was growing her business, it was easy to work through the obstacle
of time by hiring associates to help with the work load," Vallejos said.
When a small business is
trying to grow, hiring more personnel - and taking
on those added expenses - might seem counterproductive. But, said Vallejos, thinking you'll hire staff when you make more money is not necessarily the best move.
"You hire an
assistant so you can make more money," she said.
The first step for Rodriguez was to hire
an answering service to field phone calls. The service can take messages and
answer basic questions about Tutoring Solutions' services.
If necessary, it passes the call on to Rodriguez, who then schedules
appointments and can provide more in-depth information.
Even this basic form of assistance helped
Rodriguez streamline her day.
"She now controls
her phone calls, keeps her personal calls after business hours," Vallejos explained. "By getting others to help in (some) areas, Debbie
keeps moving on to the more important areas that bring in
more revenue and builds her business."
That includes hiring more tutors - 10 so far, and
counting. This has given Rodriguez considerable flexibility in offering Tutoring Solutions' services
to more areas of the city and at different times
throughout the day. That in itself has contributed to the business' growth.
With the added help,
Rodriguez has been able to cut back her own tutoring hours, further
allowing more time to focus on developing new programs.
In August, she'll start
offering group sessions, held in a small conference nook at Javalina's
Coffee & Friends, a cafe near her home base in Southeast Tucson.
Rodriguez is also
planning to sell products such as tote bags and jewelry inspired by her
business' themes of self-esteem and personal and academic success.
But first, she's taking