I hope you have been following the posts about the 10 finalists of the Dell/NFIB Small Business Excellence Award. There are some really interesting stories of small businesses using technology to their advantage, which I think you will enjoy. The next finalist we’d like to introduce is Appleton Learning from Madison, Alabama.
This company calls itself the “e-harmony of tutoring” and that’s a great description of how they make technology work for them. They specialize in tutoring and test preparation services. That’s actually a relatively crowded market and Appleton is competing with both regional and national companies that offer similar services. The five person company was started about four and a half years ago, out of a college dorm room, but we promise that’s not why Dell voted for them.
What makes Appleton unique, and helped make them a finalist in this competition, is that they use software to match students and tutors based on the human elements of education. They have become the number one tutoring service in their local market by using technology tools that not only make their business more efficient but also make it easier for customers to do business with them. In fact, they doubled revenues between 2007 and 2008 and are on track for similar growth this year!
Glenn Clayton, Appleton’s president, told us about starting his business. He tutored while in high school but didn’t have time when he got to college. What he did have time for was matching up his friends who wanted to tutor with students who needed tutoring, and the rest as they say is history.
What Appleton has developed is a totally customized web-based software system called the Appleton Resource Management System or ARMS. The system allows them to match tutors to students on a number of criteria as well as tracking tutoring schedules and keep track of tutoring histories and payments.
This model doesn’t require students to come to a traditional tutoring center, rather tutors and students work out their own schedule. What that means is they have to process a much higher volume of business than traditional centers, but provide a high level of service to each customer. That also means their ARMS system must keep track of an enormous amount of data, and it’s doing so rather well.
Since the company was founded, and they evolved into this new business model, they have tried many different marketing techniques to attract new customers but report most of their growth has come from good relationships they have built with schools and word of mouth from satisfied customers.
Congratulations to Appleton Learning, and good luck!