Guest Blog – Entrepreneur Josh Chernikoff Has Business Acquired, Offers Advice On Growing Your Business
Chernikoff’s company, Ashley Tutors, has been acquired by Canadian edtech company, LaunchLife
By Donna Krache
Joshua Chernikoff admits that he wasn’t the best student growing up.
“I wasn’t really interested in learning as I should have been,” Chernikoff says. “But I was fortunate enough to have good tutors whose focus on me helped me understand the importance of getting good grades.”
Fast forward from his childhood to Chernikoff as a young entrepreneur whose own experience with one-on-one instruction led him to launch his own company, Ashley Tutors. Chernikoff started the company in Montgomery County, Maryland, in 2007, with little more than a solid work ethic and an appreciation for what tutoring can do for a child who is floundering.
The young man who needed help with middle school math is now in a position most entrepreneurs envy: His company, Ashley Tutors, has just been acquired by Canadian ed tech company LaunchLife.
Chernikoff knows that his hard work has paid off, and he is excited about the acquisition.
“This is an incredible opportunity, because our goals are so well-aligned,” says Chernikoff. “Like Ashley Tutors, LaunchLife is committed to the success of each individual student. They want each student to excel, as we do. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”
Ashley Tutors has worked with more than 2500 families in Maryland, Virginia and Washington,
D.C. since its start and is well-known in the region. LaunchLife also recently acquired School Is Easy, a tutoring franchise in Canada. Ashley Tutors will evolve into School is Easy’s first East Coast USA franchise.
Now its president and CEO, Chernikoff talks about Ashley Tutors as his “baby.” There’s a tinge of sadness in his voice when he talks about his baby “growing up.” But he acknowledges that while parents want their kids to stay little forever, good parenting means raising good kids who grow up to be productive adults. And that is exactly what has happened with Ashley Tutors. He knows that the acquisition would never be happening had he not committed to being an attentive business “parent.”
So, what has this “business dad” learned in his journey from startup to success?
Quite a lot, it seems. And he’s happy to share the wisdom.
Chernikoff says there are five basic principles that he believes will help almost every entrepreneur get to where he is today:
1. Perform all the tasks you’re capable of doing.
Chernikoff says that you can’t just be the guy with the good idea; you have to get your hands dirty. If you’re capable of writing your own emails, doing your own billing, or anything else, do it. When he started the company, he was one of the tutors. He still is. “Doing” is not just vital to the operation of the business, it’s vital experience for the founder. It will expose you to the tasks that are critical to operating the business.
“Be prepared to be ‘chief cook and bottle washer,’” says Chernikoff. “You need to do everything you can do.”
2. Hire professionals to do the things you shouldn’t do.
Yes, money is tight, especially when you’re starting up, but Chernikoff says that some expenses are good investments in the long run.
“Don’t try to learn accounting or contract law on the fly,” he says. “Hire a good accountant and lawyer at the outset, because a bad contract, for example, can haunt you for years.” Be honest about what you don’t know and hire the right people to handle those parts of the business. You’ll thank yourself later when the business grows and these aspects of the business become even more complicated.
3. Grow your business from within.
Here’s where Chernikoff says you can save a buck or two. Don’t rush to spend a lot of money on marketing, he explains. Seek out free or low-cost ways to spread the word about your product or service. There are local events, bulletin boards, and blogs that present opportunities for you to get your brand in front of potential customers. You can brand your car, so that every time you drive you are advertising. Carry business cards wherever you go (they are very inexpensive online and at some office supply chains.)
And don’t forget to capitalize on your connections. “Nurture your network,” says Chernikoff. “You never know who might know someone who needs your help.” Reach out to your social media connections, personal and professional, and tell them about your company.
4. Stay in constant contact with your customers and your staff.
Once your business is in motion, don’t take your foot off the gas. Meet regularly with your customers and your employees. Ask your customers how you can make your business better. Ask your employees what you can do to help them do their jobs. The more you do this, says Chernikoff, the better perspectives you’ll get on your business. You’ll see the operation from all sides and know its strengths and weaknesses firsthand, before minor problems become major ones. And the better you understand your operation, the quicker you’ll recognize opportunity when it comes knocking.
An additional benefit of constant contact with customers is that they will know that you genuinely care about them, and that, in turn, will lead to satisfied customers and word-of-mouth advertising. That’s the best kind of promotion you can get.
5. Have fun!
Here is where Chernikoff combines his experience as a business “parent” with his experience as dad to his young daughter. “Everyone who has a child knows that parenting is hard work,” he says, “but as tired as you are, and as trying as some days might be, the good far outweighs the bad.”
When your business is your “baby,” there are similar ups and downs. Chernikoff’s positive outlook has gotten him past some rough times.
“In the beginning, when my back was against the wall, it was not a good feeling. But working with students and tutors every day, I tried to lighten up, smile, and enjoy the ride. That made all the difference.”
What it comes down to is balance, says Chernikoff. Balancing hard work with enjoying the ride has led him to a new phase in the life of his company, a company now “all grown up” as her proud parent looks on.