Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring, EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.
Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.
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Ludo Millar 2:13
Hello, and welcome to the 148th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, host of this podcast. Welcome back to our regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast. And of course, a huge welcome to today’s guest, Claire Riley. Claire, welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast.
Claire Riley 2:23
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited about having a chat with you.
Ludo Millar 2:27
It’s always great to speak to fellow podcast hosts and Claire’s not one, but two, podcasts have been a bit of an inspiration for the Qualified Tutor Podcast, and I’m sure for many of our listeners, because they touch on two key areas of this community, which is people coming from the classroom coming from teaching, and those who are looking to start education businesses, which are the two areas that Claire specialises in. So really, Claire, I imagine, will be familiar to many of you, our listeners – she is the co-founder and CEO of Classroom Secrets, the subscription teaching resources site covering everything in Maths, reading, grammar, punctuation, spelling and French of course. And as I said, as well as this, Claire has run two podcasts. So The Education Business Podcast and The Teachers’ Podcast. If you don’t already listen and subscribe, I’m sure you will by the end of today’s episode, hopefully, if I’ve done my job, then you will.
And as well as Classroom Secrets, and Claire’s other wonderful business, these are a testament really to her years in education and in understanding what it is that teachers need to do in order to get started or grow their own businesses. So hopefully that will be you listeners within the next half an hour. But Claire, as with so many other guests, I gather that locating old school reports was not quite possible, who knows where they’ve gone after all these years. But you do have some tales from your school days. Is that right?
Claire Riley 4:07
I do. But first I wanted to say well done on the intro. I’m the host that goes ‘Just introduce yourself’. Oh, that was amazing. Just like huge round of applause, I won’t clap because, you know, we can’t do that in front of the microphone. But yeah, just want to say wow, I mean, thank you. So yes, I don’t have any school reports to hand. But the interesting thing is that I have had to chat about this kind of thing with my mom recently. So I actually, people who listen to my podcast will know, I’ve been through a diagnosis for ADHD and a lot of it is around what your childhood was like. And all my reports my mum said that she wanted to cry every time until I was about 10 years old because she would look at the report and it would just say ‘Claire needs to stop daydreaming’ and to be fair, I still daydream now, I just make the dreams a reality.
Ludo Millar 5:06
Would you say that you weren’t able to do that as a child?
Claire Riley 5:09
Well, I did make them a reality in my head. That was it, you know, my memories of school most of the time until I think there was a time when I woke up and I remember being in Year 6, and I’d woken up, and my mum seems to think it was around about the Year 5 period. But I remember being in the Year 3 classroom, and I remember playing in my head, because it was boring. So I would just escape to my head, and I would be doing all the playing I’ve thought that I should be doing at home. And then I turn to the child next to me and say, ‘What were we supposed to be doing?’ and they’d say, ‘You should have been listening’ and I’d be like, ‘I thought I was. I thought I was’. I never- it’s not like I consciously thought ‘I’m just not going to listen’, I just didn’t listen. It was just too boring.
Ludo Millar 6:00
Yeah. So what were you dreaming about with regard to the future back then? Were you dreaming about future Claire Riley? Or were you just dreaming about the moment?
Claire Riley 6:11
I think I was just already- it’s very hard for me to say it more like, I was playing in my head, it was like the playing that you would do at home? Yeah, I can’t say, back then, I necessarily had dreams about the future and being an adult, I wasn’t sure how that would pan out. Obviously, when I got into teenage years, I think I did. But sometimes you look back and memories are not really real, the past is not real. And you make up the memory in the moment. So sometimes you think of a memory but you don’t know whether you made that up from a photo or another memory. But I think I might have had a memory around about being a teenager, that it’d be nice to own a business one day, I had no idea what that was. I thought I’d own a business. Being an entrepreneur is very different to owning a business. But yeah, here I am. I did it eventually.
Ludo Millar 7:10
So are you now, Claire, living that dream? Are you happy that you have become a business owner?
Claire Riley 7:20
Oh hugely. I’m doing a lot of gratitude for things at the moment. And, you know, we were talking just before we started recording, I’m huge into personal development. And one of the things I’m really grateful for at the moment, is myself, I’m grateful to myself for 10 years ago, starting Classroom Secrets, because the position I’m in now is just so removed from what I thought it could have ever been. And the reason why I see that more and more is that I look at people around me, and I see different situations they’re in and they’re not necessarily bad situations, they’re just not situations I would want to be. But the value that we’ve built in the company is mind blowing. And it’s almost like I think, right, 10 years ago, I knew that I wanted to start something, I didn’t even know that I would build it into the company that it is today. But when I look back from now, it’s almost like a can’t workout how I didn’t have this plan to get there because it feels like I followed the plan. But I didn’t necessarily, it’s a very strange thing, I think ‘Was there a subconscious plan there?’. But I’m so grateful now for just taking the next step every single time.
Ludo Millar 8:40
So it’s been 10 years since you set up Classroom Secrets. Where is it at now? How does it- if you were to give us sort of dissection of Classroom Secrets where it is today in January 2023? Are you happy with what it’s become? You know, that kind of thing?
Claire Riley 9:03
Good question. I don’t think you’re ever finished. But for me, everything’s about understanding people, having a competent understanding of yourself. And it’s just that we’re a lot further on in the journey. And I understand so much more about not necessarily what it should be, but what it could be. So if I think back to say 2019 I thought, ‘Oh great. I built this company. The goal is people’. But how it is now is so different and so much better. But I wouldn’t have got to that place if I hadn’t have kind of built what I want to call a very chaotic beast at that point. And really the last three years have been about taming the beast, shall we say. I used to say at the beginning of the pandemic – I like to talk in analogies a lot – and I used to say that when we started Classroom Secrets, and we realised because it wasn’t straight away, we realised what we’re going to build this into something, we’re going to have a team, we built the foundations for like a semi-detached house. But then by the end of 2019, we’d built this manor house on top of it. And so beginning of 2020, it was rebuilding the foundations of maybe a nice detached house, and making sure a nice detached house was on top of it. So kind of resetting what we wanted out of it. I think that makes sense.
Ludo Millar 10:40
That’s honestly fascinating. And very, I’d say, inspiring to hear that from someone saying that they’re growing too much, or that the business has grown too big. What are some of the warning signs, perhaps for other small education business owners, so that they don’t grow too fast too quick?
Claire Riley 11:01
Yeah. That’s such a good question. One of the things we did is we just grew one department. And we didn’t really focus on the other departments. So for us, we grew the production department a lot. But then not because the department, so that was me covering most of that, which was not helpful. The other thing is that there are benefits to taking lots of members of staff on at once. But we did that and didn’t realise it would completely change our culture. And things needed to be a lot more systemised than maybe we were ready for because we were still quite entrepreneurial.
And then you can go the other way completely. And you can have one department that’s really, really systemised, and then other departments still need to be quite entrepreneurial. So I would say speed of hiring is certainly one thing. But the difficulty is this because you need- so we, if you’ve listened to any business books or any business podcast, we talk about getting the right fit, and knowing the right person, and we can talk about that till we’re blue in the face. And, you know, I mentor people on this. And the reality is, I can tell you 80% of it. But until you experience it and make the mistake yourself, you’re never going to quite get it. You’re going to listen to all of the advice, you’re going to think, yeah, most of us know the right person, but you have to feel it, if that makes sense. You have to feel what works and what doesn’t.
And so I would say that you have to accept that mess is part of the journey. And it took me a long time to accept and forgive myself really for the mess that I felt I’ve created. And just know that actually that’s part of it. And I think one of the things I’m doing this year is I have joined a new group where there are entrepreneurs in there that are definitely way ahead of me. And to hear them say the same things is just so insane, inspiring. But also, I can’t think of the word, but makes me feel normal to know that it’s just, it’s just normal. It’s just part of the journey. You’ve got to expect that there are turbulent times where it feels like a mess. And the right thing to do is to clean up the mess, and then you might have another turbulent time, but you’ll be more experienced.
Ludo Millar 13:25
Which, you know, is a really good thing to know after 10 years of running a business. There probably aren’t many people probably listening in with a 10-year-old education business now. It’s certainly a long, long time.
Ludo Millar 19:00
With thanks to our sponsors this week, Newman Tuition and their founder, Zac Newman.
Zac Newman 19:06
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Ludo Millar 14:33
But Claire, you don’t just run Classroom Secrets. You also have The Education Business Club, that’s right?
Claire Riley 14:44
Ludo Millar 14:46
So sort of a two-part question here. Firstly, just briefly a little bit more about what The Education Business Club does and who it serves. And then what you’ve learned about running two businesses simultaneously. What are some of the things that you can tell other education business owners about that?
Claire Riley 15:01
This is interesting actually. I feel like I should share some news just before I get into this. And we talked about this before, but people listening to your podcasts are going to find this out before it goes into my podcast because it’s a few days [before my release]. So I think I’ve seen some Facebook stories come up recently, actually from 2019, where I was sharing just about business. So I’ve known from 2019 business is something I’m really passionate about and want to help people with. And I was going through this process of trying to figure out what that was, who I would help. And for a while, I definitely fought against the whole ‘Oh, I help people in education business’. And a lot of my mentors at the time were saying these people need to be helped to teach to start a business. And as we got more to 2021, so it was quite a period of time, I decided, yeah, this must be the thing I’m into. I started The Education Business Podcast. And it’s been so great to share with other teachers who have started a business but not just that other people in education business. But it’s been a learning journey.
And I think I’ve talked quite a bit on my podcast before about the businesses I had before Classroom Secrets. And the fact that they were part of the journey. And [The] Education Business Club really is part of mine and Ed’s mentorship journey. So we’re actually, we’ve recorded the final episode, and that is going out a couple of days after you’re hearing this now. It’s not that we’re not going to do a podcast, there might be one in the future. It might be together, me and Ed, it might be separate. But we’re not exactly sure what that is yet. But what we do know, and what we’ve learned through the process of [The] Education Business Club, and mentoring people that we’ve mentored, our real passion and our area of expertise is helping people who have employed for the first time within the last three years, and who have at least three employees. Basically, we have experienced so much chaos and mess that we need to help people in that place.
And you’ve got to be at a certain level of anxiety and overwhelm for us to really have a have a huge impact really, and so that we do have a couple of clients who fit that bill, really. So that’s where we’re at with Education Business Club. So what I would say is, for us, it’s not necessarily about just education business, it’s just business in general, we just happen to have this education experience, and when it’s spent running two businesses, it can actually be quite tricky, unless you can find an aligned goal. And this is one of the reasons why we’ve decided that actually, we’re not going to continue with Education Business Club because we know that we’re not necessarily hitting the right clients that are right for us. And so that then takes away from Classroom Secrets, we’ve got these big goals for Classroom Secrets.
So that’s another reason for stepping back this year, so that we can really focus on what Classroom Secrets needs from us. But in order to- I will never recommend that somebody does these two businesses if you don’t have a team. So when I started The Education Business Podcast, I had an Ops Director, and then maybe six months in, I had an Ops Director and an MD, and there’s obviously Ed as well, who’s the CTO so you can only do it if you’re only staying in your lane, in the businesses that you’re in really.
Hopefully that answers the question, it’s tricky. And you have to be able to go ‘Hang on a minute, this isn’t working’ and stop something even if you really like it because I really like recording The Education Business Podcasts, but I have to think about is it right for our goals long term?
Ludo Millar 19:11
Maybe not. So, there’s a question that’s coming out of this, I think, that I can’t let you get away with [LAUGHS]. Apart from going into business with your husband or wife, which is, I gather, what you’ve done … how do you pick the right team? How do you pick the first person to work with?
Claire Riley 19:37
This is really hard. For me, it was my sister. And you know, I did that more out of fear because I knew that I could trust her. And I did have people before that but they were freelancers. And what I did when it was with the freelancers is I took too much responsibility. I didn’t ask them to change things. I just changed it on my side. So there was a lot there. And, you know, on The Education Business Podcast, if you want to find out more about that I do go into detail about all of the feelings I had. Because it’s not just about knowing this stuff, it’s about your mindset around it as well. So what I say now, when I’m mentoring people, is your first hire needs to be somebody who’s very entrepreneurial like you, and wants to grow the business with you. So our Ops Director’s called Sharon, and she was not our first employee. But she was the first one who was really quite entrepreneurial. And she didn’t start as Ops Director, but she’s Ops Director now for a reason. And she’s kind of treated the company like her own in the right way, and helped us grow the company. And that served her really, really well.
So I would say, your absolute first hire, you’re looking for somebody who has an invested interest in wanting to grow the company with you, rather than somebody who just wants to turn up, do a good job and go home. You could say, there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not going to help you. Because, you know, if you’re in entrepreneurialism, and you’re doing it the right way, you’re gonna have a lot of tasks, and you’re not gonna get it right. By the end of two weeks from now, I don’t want to do this. How do we make sure this becomes your responsibility, and you want to pass it over? And you gotta keep doing that all the time. And you’ve got to always give them a little bit more than they can handle, and if they’re entrepreneurial, they’ll fly with that. So that’s, yeah, you need a mini-entrepreneur that doesn’t want to run the business.
Ludo Millar 21:44
Yeah. And who possibly one day could take on the business … ? What do you not do when you start a business, Claire? Do you think about how you come to an end of that business? Or is that not a good way to think about when you start a business?
Claire Riley 22:05
I think it depends on who you are. And I think quite a lot of people that I mix with now who aren’t in education would think that way. Would I think that way if I started a business now? No, probably I didn’t think like that when I started Classroom Secrets. But I do think like that more now. Not necessarily because I want to [but] because I understand the importance of building value in the company, and how to do that. I mean, you could say, now, I don’t do that much at Classroom Secrets. I’m not responsible for that much, because I’ve got a Managing Director. But that’s not them taking on the business, that’s them running the business for you, and you’re becoming the other investor. When you sell it, that’s I suppose when they take it on. So I don’t know, maybe it’s just a definition thing? I’m not sure.
Ludo Millar 23:03
Yeah, sorry. Not a particularly nice question [LAUGHS].
Claire Riley 23:08
I’m being drilled [LAUGHS].
Ludo Millar 23:10
Maybe there’s something that you don’t want to say for those of your employees who are listening, but no, I mean, we have to be real about these things. When we start a business, we’re not going to be- we may be founder there forever, but we’re not going to be in charge of it forever. And actually, sometimes, the best decisions to make for the business are ones that involve you stepping back, which, obviously, can be a sad moment for you, and can be a daunting moment for your team. But yeah, I think obviously, if you pick the right people, and you get that right fit, and you make sure that you have invested in a team before growing, then hopefully the team themselves will be empowered to take on more significant roles.
Claire Riley 24:00
Yeah, what I want to say about that, though, as a caveat is that you’re right. But that team doesn’t stay the same. So the team to get you from the, I don’t know, now to 15 can be different for the team then to get you to 25 and it just so happens that Sharon has been able to manoeuvre, but not a lot of people would. And so that’s okay as well. And I do think there’ll be a lot of people listening who have have no intention really of growing a business so that they don’t have to be the one in charge and becoming the founder. And that’s fine. You do have to do a lot more work to get to the point where you don’t have to do the doing, like it’s a completely different type of business in a way.
Ludo Millar 24:52
Yeah, and that might be a conversation for another time [LAUGHS].
Ludo Millar 24:59
And now, a brief word from last week’s guest, Ben Gadsby, whose episode you can catch after this.
Ben Gadsby 25:12
I really enjoyed being asked to bring along old school reports, I ended up talking a lot more about my own stories, for instance, than I have done in a long time. I’m not sure if Ludo was just being nice, but I learned that some of the research stuff that I worry is too nerdy can actually be interesting to the right audience. My advice to future guests would be don’t over prepare before coming on the podcast. Come along, ready for a fun chat and let the conversation happen naturally.
Ludo Millar 25:44
Claire, thank you so, so much for taking us through that. I’m sure some of those things you may not have thought about for a while, some of those things you may not have said on a podcast before, perhaps especially not on someone else‘s podcast. I’m sure you wanted to break the news about the end of The Education Business Podcast to your own podcast first, I’m sorry for bringing you on this week. But this is my third final episode myself of hosting the Qualified Tutor Podcast. So you know, there’s perhaps a changing of the guard perhaps, and actually it ties in very nicely with what we’re saying about preparing for the future and that kind of thing. Because, you know, these kinds of things, businesses, podcasts, they don’t last forever, not necessarily in the same guise that they have existed in. Now, on that note, given all that we’ve just spoken about, perhaps this question has kind of answered itself. But Claire, what is next for you? What’s next for Claire Riley?
Claire Riley 26:48
Oh, wow. Well, so I’ve set my 2023 intentions, I’m sure you’ve done the same. And I feel more focused on them than ever this year, a real, real clarity. And so two things, one’s really wild, but I’m going to tell you anyway. So the first thing is that Ed and I, and obviously my husband and my co-founder, we’re really going to work hard on growing our personal brands in business, because we want to set the stage for whatever comes next, even though we don’t know what that is yet.
So that’s the first thing and obviously, the work that we’re doing in Classrooms Secrets but the second thing is, I have decided this year, I’m gonna learn to play piano. It’s probably not what you’re expecting. And I’m going to do some singing. So I can’t sing. I did a degree in musical theatre. I don’t know, I think it’s the scariest thing on my dream list. And here I am now saying I’m going to do something with that. So there you go. That’s what we’re gonna do.
Ludo Millar 27:54
Okay well, I will try my best to hold you to that Claire, by the end of next year. What a wonderful skill, you know, outside of the professional sphere, for now at least, unless you become a professional singer. But away from business, I think it’s equally as important to create your business intentions and your personal goals. That’s why I always frame that question with the guest’s full name because I really do mean that, I don’t just mean- often on this podcast, guests talk about their business and their philosophy and professional philosophies. And that’s great, that’s why we brought them on. But, you know, also that’s why I asked about your why and your school days. And what’s next for Claire Riley. Because I think that is an equally important part of how we show up in business, is our own individual selves. And also I think that’s what makes this podcast a bit, you know, nice and human is that we’re not just talking about business. So Claire, well done for expertly combining your professional and your personal. Thank you, you’ve delivered a wonderful episode there. If people want to get in touch with you straight after this, what’s the best way they can do that?
Claire Riley 29:05
Oh, straight after. I am the best on Instagram. Because I share stories on there as well. So if you really know you are the …
Ludo Millar 29:15
You’re the best on Instagram? I like that …
Claire Riley 29:19
I mean, you can follow me on LinkedIn but you don’t get the stories on Instagram. I’m @clairerileyteacherentrepreneur.
Ludo Millar 29:26
@clairerileyteacherentrepreneur, that will be in the show notes as well. That’s your next step. Of course, you can also head to classroomsecrets.co.uk to find all of your resources and worksheets, all of the things that you need to teach well in Maths, English, French those areas, and you can head to educationbusinessclub.co.uk which is Claire’s mentoring and business support that she runs alongside her husband, Ed.
So, listeners, thank you so much for tuning into 148th episode of this podcast. As I said just then, the 150th episode will be my final episode of this as host of this podcast. But it is not the end of this podcast. So stay tuned for more info on what comes next. But Claire, thank you so much for turning up today and teaching our audience about how to build a business so that was really amazing.
Claire Riley 31:20
Thank you so much.
Ludo Millar 31:23
And we will speak again soon, Claire. Cheerio then everyone. Bye.
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