Having started her journey growing Tutor Doctor’s UK franchise network a decade ago, Ann Mary Wardman has now become a franchisee of the brand with her son Deaglan Furey
When Ann Mary Wardman became in charge of tutoring franchise Tutor Doctor’s UK regional and national franchise growth a decade ago, she immediately connected with the company’s aim to make learning easier for children. “I used to be a university lecturer and I just love what Tutor Doctor does – it makes such a difference,” she says. “[Tutor Doctor president] Frank Milner used to use this phrase ‘It’s not enough to make a dollar, you also need to make a difference’ and that really resonated with me.” Consequently, she became a UK franchisee of the Canadian franchise along with her son, Deaglan Furey, in January 2019.
While working for Tutor Doctor, she saw how franchisees flourished and that’s when Wardman realised it was a perfect opportunity for her. “When I joined Tutor Doctor in 2009, there were probably only about ten franchisees in the whole world and now there are 500 plus across 16 countries,” she declares. “So we knew the business worked and that gives you great confidence when you’re buying a business.”
Tutor Doctor wasn’t the only franchise she worked with. Over the years, Wardman accumulated a wealth of knowledge about franchising as she was responsible for introducing a slew of North American companies such as digital marketing agency WSI, franchise consultancy MatchPoint and marketing solutions company AlphaGraphics to the UK franchise market. As a result, she knew what being a franchisee entailed from the get-go. “Franchising is a business in a box and you unpack the box along with your training and you’ve got everything from ‘This is how you get customers, this is how you deal with your employees,’” says Wardman. “You’ve got something in place for absolutely everything.” However, while franchisees are under the umbrella of a tried-and-tested business, it doesn’t mean they have it easy. “Sometimes people have this thought that they’ll buy a franchise and it will just all fall into their lap – no, it’s hard work,” she adds.
Along with in-depth franchise knowledge, Wardman’s entrepreneurial experience of owning a cleaning company was an add-on when she became a franchisee. “Lots of people will go into Tutor Doctor, they’ll have just one territory, they’ll build a business that gives them a good working life and a good return on their investment,” she says. But with her experience Wardman aimed higher. “We’ve bought five territories plus the regional licence [in Bromley] because we see it as a business,” she explains. “I think you do look at things differently if you come at it from a point of view of business.”
Given the mother and son team’s passion, it’s easy to see how they’re on top of the game in their franchise. In fact, Wardman claims Furey achieved the top gun recognition for the rookie category in February. This means, out of the new franchisees who signed up within the last year, he did the maximum business in just a week. “We had a little bit of a jog when we hit the ground but then we really started to move it up to an actual full-on sprint,” Furey says about his initial days. He believes it’s important to plan ahead even before the training begins over in Canada. “I would really advise getting events planned before you go to Toronto as it becomes a little busy when you get back,” he opines. “[That’s] because the UK has quite a few Tutor Doctors already and it’s starting to become a brand that people recognise.”
For Furey, getting to this stage had its challenges. To start with, some marketing methods suggested by the North American franchisor couldn’t be replicated in the UK. For instance, lawn signs may well work wonders elsewhere but would be against UK regulations, Furey declares. “So [they] went ‘You must have lawn signs because it’s got such great return rate’ and we went ‘We’re going to get fined if we do that here,’” he says. As a result, Furey came up with innovative ideas such as putting streamer poppers inside letters before posting them to potential clients to grab their attention. “You’re not going to be able to spend millions of pounds on an advertising campaign that stretches over billboards,” he adds. “Instead you’ve got to think about what’s going to be the best return on investment. That means thinking outside the box and doing something that bigger companies don’t have the manpower to do.”
Looking forward, the mother-son duo are confident about their future plans with Tutor Doctor. “I want to get to the point where we’ve got a million [pound] turnover and expand from there,” Furey says. “We may take on some more business in Bristol [and] Birmingham but we’ll make sure that our first territory works properly.”
Admittedly, becoming a Tutor Doctor franchisee requires much more than a desire to make money. “If you’re not passionate about making a difference in children’s lives, this isn’t the business for you because it’s not going to make you multimillions,” Wardman concludes. “Tutor Doctor is about making a decent living and making a difference as much as anything.”