HeForShe: Richard Evans | Founder, The Profs

Richard Evans

Richard Evans is Forbes 30U30 Social Entrepreneur, NatWest’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year and Founder of The Profs.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

The Profs set out to overhaul the broken, lecture-based university system and replace it with quality one-to- one online education that targets the individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. In 7 years, we have built multi- million sales traction to achieve this goal, along with an army of 1000 online-trained lecturers and the world’s most advanced online teaching tool: BitPaper.io.

As founder, I have had the pleasure of building the teams to achieve this goal. At one time or another, I have worn every hat in the company: from taking the very first client enquiries calls, through to dressing up and providing flyers for university campuses across the country, to hiring and directing all our senior team members to achieve our ambitious goals. Today, I am working with my co-founders to build the strategy (and pitch deck) to help us achieve a truly global scale, and I can’t wait to present this to my team in one month’s time.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was meant to be a banker, or a consultant, possibly a lawyer. Instead, I just graduated, without a job, and continued my passion: tutoring. I can’t even claim that was part of the masterplan; I fell into tuition on the advice of my flatmate when I fell short of my rent in 2010! The great feeling that came from mentoring students to reach their fullest potential, however, I could not be beaten by any traditional career. I had my students coding educational games to help them remember their times tables, develop their critical thinking through fierce mock debates and even writing letters to toy manufacturers with design specifications. All this whilst myself earning a great hourly wage and allowing me the flexibility to develop key marketing and management skills that would bring me closer to my vision: to help fix the broken education system.

Seven years later, aged 30, with my brother and co-founders, we’ve grown this idea into multi-millions of annual revenues, a team of 18 staff and 1000 PhDs, lecturers, ex-managing directors and retired professors who share our goal, plus the online tech needed to achieve it. Together, we’re bringing traditional education into the 21st century.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

We’ve faced just about every possible challenge conceivable – we have been unjustly kicked off Google Ads (fortunately, they realised their error), have had to take the UK Government to the highest court in the land to protect self-employment rights, supported our staff through the most serious medical conditions, and stood up to (and fended off) challenges from VC-backed companies with 100x our annual marketing budget.

The challenges we’ve faced have only made us stronger, and that fighting spirit and resilience is the most important trait of any successful person, team and organisation.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

There are so many, but for me: it’s seeing the development of our team members. For many of our team, The Profs was their first office job and we’ve all had to learn and grow together. We’ve developed ourselves from a bunch of misfits into the strongest team in our sector through a culture of accountability and not shying away from the difficult challenges. My favourite part of the job is our whole-team meetings, where every member of the team, no matter how junior or new, sits around a table together and listens to and questions our strategic objectives for the next quarter. This meeting helps to keep me on my toes and the team feel empowered that their views will be heard at every step of the journey.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Our culture of excellence. Even from the earliest days, when we were based in my living room, we set our ambitions of being the best, not just in London, but the world. This objective is so woven into every aspect of our culture that it defines everything we do. Every tutor interviewed must be better than the last, and those who do not help us to achieve consistently excellent reviews are removed from the network each year. Each review our company receives is scrutinised by the entire team. On the (very) rare days that we receive a 1* review, the entire company stops everyone to question what went wrong, and how we can rectify this for the customer and prevent this from happening again. This aggressive focus on quality allows us to charge industry-beating rates for our tutors. That’s why we’ve been voted #1 on Trustpilot for 5 years in a row, won Best Tutoring Company of The Year, and attract over 5,000 tutor applications yearly.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

The best long-term investment anyone can make is in themselves. As a private tutor and mentor, I believe that mentoring is essential for the development of not just employees, but everyone you come across in life. Everyone needs and deserves their own cheerleader, and a firm but fair sounding board to correct them whenever they might be on the wrong course.

I mentor tens of students per year; I create workshops and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) events for my team to learn from each other; and I have multiple mentors in different fields to help me to grow personally and professionally. You cannot underinvest in yourself or your team!

What can businesses/government/allies do to help diversity and inclusion?

The silver bullet is education. Creating safe environments in schools, universities, and businesses for peoples of any background to share their views and learn from one another is key. I think the government should focus more resources on early-years education of diversity and inclusion. I do not believe that any child is born with prejudices, but that we develop such prejudices as children, most obviously from our parents and our early social communities. The best defence against such prejudices is early years education to challenge and counter the formation of such views, which fester and grow into diversity and inclusive problems in the later life.

Why do you think it’s important for men to support gender equality in the workplace?

I think that everyone, regardless of gender, shares the same responsibility to support gender equality in the workplace. At The Profs, I am proud that three of our four highest-earning staff members happen to be female (a fact I had not realised until this interview!). I am even more proud that we arrived at this situation naturally, by allowing those staff members to achieve their positions purely through their own merits, and without any interventions needed.

It is the responsibility of all business owners to create fair environments and meritocracies, so that the best talent can rise to the top, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, beliefs or anything else. I think start-ups like ours, the companies of the future, have a huge role to play in creating such environments and a better, fairer future.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

A business is only as capable as the people running it. Invest in onboarding and retaining great people and the rest will come. Secondly, and I hear this from so many entrepreneurs, I wish I’d have known back then where I would be today and taken even more enjoyment in the journey of getting to where I am.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We are in the process of mass hiring, seeking investment and taking all our operations to the next level. We’ve built the best team, product, tech, and culture in our industry. We’ve been so patient learning everything about our industry and tweaking our model and processes whilst building the perfect team and offerings for our customers. Now is the time to pour rocket fuel onto our operations and take our business to the next level.

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