Case Studies

From successful teacher to business-owning mum

Stressed by the ever-increasing responsibilities of full-time teaching at a Sydney boarding school, Sonia Brocklehurst knew it was time for a change. She began researching alternative careers and discovered NumberWorks’nWords.

After a quick check online, Sonia realised there were no NumberWorks’nWords franchises on the Northern Beaches where she’d grown up. She put in a website enquiry, Maurice Smith got in touch and the beginnings of a successful new career started falling into place.

Knowing exactly what you’re getting into

“Maurice and Anne Smith came over from New Zealand and it was almost like we were interviewing each other. They were really good at explaining how my work life would change and checking whether it was something I’d be happy to do. They also gave me all the information I needed in terms of the business model and business planning. I was able to sit down and take my time to figure out in detail whether this was what I wanted to do.”

Sonia had excelled at maths and English before training to teach music. Apart from the fact that she hadn’t worked as a tutor or been in a NumberWorks’nWords centre before, she had no concerns.

“I was really looking forward to going to training. Maurice and Anne assured me I would learn everything I needed to know, and they were right.”

Help with finding the right premises

When it came to finding the best place to set up Sonia’s new NumberWorks’nWords centre in Dee Why, Maurice and Anne once again crossed the Tasman to be there in person, sharing their knowledge and experience along with the local Master Franchisee.

“I could look at it from a business point of view, but in terms of location I had no idea of what was involved and what made parents happy. I knew I had to get this right. Maurice and Anne’s personal support was crucial in helping me decide exactly where we set up the new Dee Why centre.”

Comprehensive training

Sonia went to New Zealand for eight days of intensive NumberWorks’nWords training. Two very experienced franchisees from Australia were on the same course doing refresher training.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the training. It was very well organised and very professional. We worked with real children as part of the course, which was fantastic. The idea of having experienced franchisees at the training was as valuable as the training itself. Spending time with completely new people like me and having people going back to do refreshers was really good. You get a strong feeling that everyone is going to help you succeed.”

Opening two centres and having a baby in three years

Sonia opened her brand new Dee Why centre in 2010 with no students. Today there are more than 220 attending. After giving the first centre some time to see if it would be a success, Sonia set herself a five year plan of owning more centres and working ‘on the business’, rather than ‘in the business’.

“After two years I was very pleased with how well the first centre was going. I asked my husband what he thought about me opening a second centre. We decided it would be a good idea, so I got things underway - and then I became pregnant. I opened the centre at Mona Vale in my third year with NumberWorks’nWords and had a baby four weeks after it opened.”

Fortunately, Sonia had always planned to put managers into her centres and had been training up two of the tutors from her first centre. Through careful succession planning, Sonia had made them aware of her plans and got them on board to be managers well in advance. They went to training in New Zealand in January and then the second centre opened for business.

Being an owner with managers rather than an owner/manager

Sonia believes her strategy of employing managers has been crucial to the success of her plan.

“I enjoyed managing my first centre but during the growth stages I was often torn in terms of priorities. Now I have two great managers who can focus on tutoring really well, while I focus on running and building the business.”

Sonia meets with her centre managers fortnightly and all NSW managers on the other weeks. She speaks with her managers every day and regularly drops into see how things are going. In addition, Sonia has installed TeamViewer on the business computer systems. This gives her complete access to everything from home and even allows her to take over a manager’s computer to show them how to do something.

Sonia now has two children. She continues to put a lot of time into the business, but her business model has given her the flexibility to make this work.

The NumberWorks’nWords advantage

Sonia is a great believer in the NumberWorks’nWords approach to tutoring and sees it as a strong advantage over competitors.

“NumberWorks’nWords is directly linked to the curriculum the kids are studying at school. The company provides extensive training for tutors and we offer students the ideal combination of personalised tutoring and great computerised learning programs. Kids that come in might have tried other tutoring software or had a home tutor, but it’s the combination that sets us apart from our competitors.”

Success today

Asked if the business has met her expectations income wise, Sonia answered with an emphatic yes.

“Obviously while you’re growing any new business, you end up spending the money you make on things like additional computers. But you’re investing in growth. I now have two great investments in the centres themselves. In addition we’ve been able to buy the property the Mona Vale centre is operating out of. That gives us greater security and a commercial property investment for the future.

“Income wise, I’m earning a lot more than I ever was as a high school teacher. Every year I’m helping hundreds of kids to succeed and I’m looking after my young family at the same time. It’s a very good feeling.”