How long did it take to get the business off the ground and what were the main challenges in the early days?

As a business owner you never feel like you are "safe" and it's "off the ground". The amount of worry I've felt has reduced over the years but there will always remain an element there in the back of my mind. The positive side to this however is that I am never complacent. I think and sometimes obsess over the detail, which I am sure has helped make good decisions and contributed to the success so far.

The business became sustainable after the first year.  It was at this point I could stop judging William Clarence's performance each week, but instead take a longer term view of the business.  It enabled me to make better, more informed decisions on where I wanted to steer the business in the future - that being towards a full education consultancy.

One of my main challenges was to keep focused. This was extremely difficult and at times very stressful due to the type of work coming to us constantly changing. At this point it was hard to think about where I wanted to steer the William Clarence brand as I was so consumed in the changing clients that I was effectively just treading water. Another challenge, was to not take the constant rejection and setbacks too personally. When you have your life invested in a new project, you live and breathe every aspect and so when clients cancelled or contacts didn't deliver what they promised it's easy to feel absolutely devastated. Eventually I learnt to take a step back and realised that sometimes things just happen and there is nothing I could have done differently.

How has the core business changed since we last spoke to you and why was that necessary?

When I first started the business at the end of 2013 it was off the back of my own part time tutoring.  As I got busier I took on more tutors to cope with demand and began to take enquiries for other subjects - this continued for the first full year of trading and there were over 100 tutors dealing with all subjects at all ages. I didn't realise this prior to starting the business but it is in fact a high volume, relatively low margin, transactional model. This meant it quickly became a full time job just managing the tutors and clients. This capped growth, and if you want more then you need extra people and this expands yours costs.

It was around this time in the development of the business that the types of the jobs were changing. There were less hourly 1 or 2 hours a week of tutoring but more full homeschooling or relocation projects with a team of tutors, liaising with schools and Universities and becoming the focal point of responsibility for a family's educational journey. I then shifted the focus of the business towards the international market, finding schools, universities for families, constructing full educational programmes, and then fitting on the tutoring as part of that process.

In what type of situation would someone consider using the services of William Clarence Education and do you operate worldwide?

We work with families both domestically and internationally, who are looking for help and advice on their next steps in education - that could be anything from finding the right nursery in a new area, prep school, senior school or University. We have helped families needing to bridge a gap from state to private education, expat families relocating back to the UK, prepared Indian, Chinese, Nigerian and American families with entrance exams to the top UK schools, and everything in between. We have also had instances where there has been some unfortunate circumstance change within the family's, maybe a problem at school or at home and we have

put together a homeschooling programme to mirror a regular school with a team of professional tutors to help prepare the child to re-enter the mainstream education system when the time is right.

The common theme with all our clients is that they are in need of honest, impartial advice on which schools suit their child's profile.  We can promise impartiality as we do not take any fees from schools.  Ultimately our focus is the ensure the child is at the centre of the process and is happy with the result - not which school pays us the highest commission.  This has really helped us build our brand with both clients and schools.

Our work has stretched all continents now and we have advised, tutored or assessed children at all ages - we start at nursery placement age, up to prep schools senior schools and University entrance.  We don't really have a typical family or typical nationality - most of our jobs are as unique as the family's themselves.

What are you most proud off?

I am very proud of the development of the whole business, the constant evolution of service offering and client base has been very satisfying to see.  There are a number of milestones I think I'm most pleased with, the first was winning our first paying customer, reaching 1000 hours of billed tutoring, managing our first international family moving to the UK and then our first large scale homeschooling curriculum are all stand out moments for me.

More recently, I have been very proud of the growth in branding internationally. Seeing the business name and brand in print with a double page feature in The Sunday Times was very satisfying.

Receiving seed funding 2 years ago from three very experienced and successful educational professionals was a huge milestone and one that has been very important in guiding the business going forward and most recently, having William Clarence Education nominated under two categories at this year's EducationInvestor Awards 2017 - fingers crossed we can win one of them!

What is the most important and powerful lesson you have learnt?

I learnt very early on that it's essential to build healthy relationships with everyone you work with, both competitors and partners. There have been a couple of jobs and projects that without the help of a contact in the industry it wouldn't have been possible to achieve the results we achieved.

I also learnt that it is essential to surround yourself with good, honest people. I have been very fortunate to have a reliable advisory board made up of a couple of select people who have acted as introducers where needed and a sounding board.

And the future for WCE? greater UK coverage, international expansion?

The future I am sure will be very different again; however, we are set to develop further a number of key regions including China, The Gulf and Iran to name a few. I intend to develop our already strong relationships with our people on the ground in these regions, and also strengthen the trust between us and the UK schooling and University network. This is the key to being the best; having a strong personal relationship and genuinely knowing the schools so we can advise accurately.

Part of this development will be to form new partnerships with international agents, schools and investment groups to help provide a platform for the brand on territory for a wide range of educational services and products.  

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