We love to hear about how our customers are using Batchbook. When Gustavo mentioned that Batchbook allows his small team to appear much bigger than they are, I wanted to hear more. Gustavo was kind enough to answer some questions about his business and how Batchbook helps it succeed.
Gustavo has a true passion for teaching and helping others succeed. This can be seen not only in how he helps his students directly, but also in how he has made his space available to other teachers who have their own businesses. What he has come up with is co-working with a twist; independent teachers sharing space to be able to provide more education opportunities for all! Read on to learn more.
Tell us a little bit about what your company does and what services you provide:
I own a mathematics school called “Gustavo Reis Mathematica Et Cetera” in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil. Porto Alegre is the 10th largest capital in the country and an important city as it relates to the “Southern Cone”, since it’s exactly halfway between São Paulo and Buenos Aires (90 minute flights) and it’s the capital of Brazil’s southernmost state, Rio Grande do Sul. My school offers regular courses that prepare students for University admission exams that are mandatory in Brazil (called “vestibulares”) and also provides support for students who are already attending tech schools in subjects such as Calculus, Linear Algebra and Differential Equations. We also have a team or partners who offer private tutoring at all levels (primary, high school, college). Although the school is focused on math, other teachers share our space and offer regular prep courses on a variety of subjects such as Portuguese, Chemistry, Biology and History — so, in addition to the math primary focus, the school ended up becoming a co-working space for specialist teachers who want to work on their own.
How did you get started?
I started teaching back in 1991, right after I passed the “vestibular” exam myself, and continued teaching all the way through college. In 1997, a couple of years after graduating in Computer Science, I became an intern for IDC (International Data Corporation) and, as a result, spent 5 years in the US focused on market research, first working for IDC, which I left as a Senior Analyst, and then moving on to Citrix Systems. When I came back to Brazil in 2001, it was clear to me that I was still a teacher in my heart, and then I founded my first school with 5 other co-founders. Later I realized that, in terms of the technologies we used (whiteboard digital capture, a web-based student portal, multimedia in all classes, etc.), the school was not compatible with Brazil’s Internet infrastructure at that time or the students perception of the added value of our offerings, which obviously required premium fees. In addition, none of the co-founders could ever dedicate 100% of their time to the school (myself included), and this certainly made things harder.
The school closed its doors about 4 years later, but I still consider having gone through the whole process a truly positive experience. Ultimately, this experience was pivotal for having “Gustavo Reis Mathematica Et Cetera” go into business back in March 2008. We rented a 90 square meter office (about 1,000 square feet) and remodeled it into 2 classrooms for 25 students each, plus a reception and also what I call a “get-together” spot where there’s water, coffee and students have access to the restrooms. Prior to opening the school, I quit my job as a teacher in a large prep school, and I’ve been dedicated to my company full-time since its opening. Since then, I’m happy to say we’ve been growing at a healthy 40% annual rate. In the early days, occupation rates in each of the courses I offered hovered around 35% — this same number is at about 90% today. Since last year, we have an additional location across the street where I have my office and my video studio (more on this subject later). So it’s been quite a ride 🙂
How many employees do you currently have?
We have a team of 3 people: myself, my 70-year-old dad Adeodato, who is our receptionist, takes care of all our account payables and receivables and is also sort of a local celebrity since students love him so much, and my intern Lucas, who was one of the first students who enrolled in the school back in 2008 and is currently a top student from our best local business school. Lucas is my handy man in charge of almost all business processes that are needed so that the educational services we offer run smoothly. As a plus, you can say he is also a Batchbook guru, since he’s in charge of all CRM-related activities. As an avid reader, he is certainly the dynamo behind the school’s recent initiatives in the virtual teaching world.
We also have 6 teachers who use the classroms as a co-working space, another 5 partner teachers who take care of private tutoring, and 3 former students, handpicked among the most brilliant, who come to the school once a week and provide one-on-one tutoring for students who are enrolled in the regular courses.
How does your company stay connected with clients and your business community?
Being in touch with current students isn’t a problem since they come to school once or twice a week, sometimes more. Also on the face-to-face side, recently we organized the 2nd edition of our annual parents’ meeting, an event that is always very well received – there are tons of pictures on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/mathematicaetcetera)). To be in touch with former students, we use the school’s website (http://www.gustavoreis.com), the blog I keep through a partnership with the state’s largest news group (http://www.gustavoreis.blog.br), newsletters we send through MailChimp (thanks to the Batchbook integration!), our Twitter accounts my personal @profgustavoreis and the company’s @mathetc and our Facebook page (close to 300 likes and counting!).
Last month we started scratching on the surface of what I envision as the future of my school (and the future of education in general) through a weekly live video show we have been broadcasting using Livestream. The show is called “Hora Feliz da Matemática”, which can be freely translated as “Math’s Happy Hour”. We have consistently reached between 80 and 100 viewers in each live transmission, and feedback has been very, very positive from current and former students and, surprisingly enough, from their parents as well! Use this search query if you want to take a look at one of the 4 episodes we have broadcasted this far, but get ready to polish your Portuguese skills before that 🙂 The show goes on air every Wednesday at 8pm Brasilia time, 7pm EDT — since viewers can participate via Twitter, feel free to join us and say hi! I might excuse myself from the local audience for a moment and reply in English 🙂
How does Batchbook help you run your business?
We have business processes in place that are triggered every time a potential student contacts us through a visit, email or phone call. We intensely use Batchbook deals in order to keep control of all the leads, and the process implementation is completely based on to-do templates and communication tracking (we use Batchbox for that). Even when deals do not close, we have been receiving positive feedback on a regular basis from people who look for our services — and when a student enrolls and gets familiar with the company structure, they are often amazed by the fact that we run all the processes with a headcount of 2 (my dad doesn’t get involved with BB operation). Batchbook has consistently made us look way bigger than we are!
We extensively use supertags to identify all students based on category (“vestibular”, tech or private tutoring) and year of enrollment. Batchbook is also used to keep centralized control of contact information from suppliers, partner schools, teachers and, as a plus, my personal contacts as well. Integration with Google Contacts allows me to move specific contacts to my iPhone, where I use specialized grouping and SMS applications to instantly keep in touch with students individually or at class-level. We already use webforms internally, but in our new website, Batchbook webforms will be incorporated so that students can make reservations and enrollments by themselves.
As a small company, how important are online tools like Batchbook?
Having a degree in Computer Science myself and having worked in the IT industry, I am completely aware of the costs associated with proprietary tool development and deployment and how prohibitive these costs have always been to small companies like mine. Online tools like Batchbook even the playing field completely. Cloud computing give companies the opportunity to focus on the actual services they provide instead of spending tons of money and countless hours worrying about infrastructure upgrades, and best of all, keep budgets compatible with each company’s growth at any given moment. Add to that the ability of accessing information anywhere, anytime, from any device (as they would say back in my Citrix days), and that’s an unbeatable combination.
Can you offer any advice for anyone else looking to start their own company?
I will use Seth Godin’s recent motto: just go there and “Poke the Box”. There has never been a moment where so many free (or near-free) tools were universally available so that people can stand up and offer their products and/or services to their local communities, cities, states, countries or to the whole world. All it takes is a decision, and I have personal, practical reasons to believe that doing anything beats doing nothing. Since 2008, close to 900 students have trusted us, and I’m happy to say that I have made about 900 friends in the process. 🙂