Robert Kohen – Founder of Kohen Educational Services

Fostering meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues has really helped. I’m always growing my network and seeking ways to better help those in it. Not only do people return the favor, but it also makes for much more enjoyable and rewarding work.

Robert Kohen is the founder of Kohen Educational Services, an academic services firm based in New York City that offers individualized tutoring and test prep. The company works with clients both locally in New York and globally via online platforms. Before founding Kohen Educational Services, Robert taught at Harvard University, where he was officially recognized by the Dean of Harvard College for his teaching. At Harvard, Robert discovered that he most enjoyed working with students one-on-one, which he felt allowed him to not only build a meaningful rapport with students but also to have the greatest impact on their academic performance. Motivated by his positive results working with college students and his love of all things academic—including standardized tests—Robert founded Kohen Educational Services to transfer what he had learned at Harvard to the private sector. He holds a Ph.D. and an A.M. from Harvard, which he attended as an I.H. Levin scholarship recipient, and a B.A., Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude, from Columbia University. He still remembers his earliest encounter with standardized testing—an ACT test in middle school—which landed him a seat at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program, an opportunity he remembers fondly. He also completed Harvard University’s “Mini-MBA” for doctoral students, held at Harvard Business School. He is a native of Central Florida.

Where did the idea for Kohen Educational Services come from?

The idea for Kohen Educational Services grew out of my time teaching at Harvard. I realized that I was able to have the most substantive impact on students’ academic performance not by giving lectures or teaching courses, but by working closely with them one-on-one and building a more meaningful rapport. I wanted to be able to take that model, which was both effective and incredibly fulfilling personally, and realize it full-time. I already knew private tutoring was a growing industry, but when I realized that many private tutors weren’t professional educators and tutored only a few hours a week on top of other commitments, I saw an opportunity to use my pedagogical background and full-time commitment to teaching to make a difference.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

There’s always a lot to do when I get up! I try to be productive by getting up each morning at six, which allows me to get a head start on emails and to sneak a few hours of product development in before the phone starts ringing and new emails arrive. Afternoons and evenings are mainly spent working with students, speaking with prospective clients, and meeting with colleagues and partners. I save the last hour of the day for paperwork, which ensures it always gets done.

How do you bring ideas to life?

The same way I tell my students to: with a lot of planning, structure, and persistence. And always with an openness toward change.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Digital learning and online education. It’s increasingly possible for both students and professionals all over the world to connect with and learn from the best institutions and teachers today.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

List making!

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I’m fortunate in that I’ve really enjoyed all the jobs I’ve had. Working in some industries, however, taught me I didn’t want to make a career in them.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

When I started I was operating only in New York City. If I could do it over again, I would have started teaching globally via an online platform right from the beginning. There’s really nothing pedagogical you can do in person now that you can’t do just as well online.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Keep learning. I try to make sure I’m always taking at least one online course, or MOOC, relevant to pedagogy and my business. Industry norms and best practices can change rapidly. With the profusion of free online courses (MOOCs) and accessible educational material out there, it’s easier than ever to stay on the cutting edge.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Fostering meaningful relationships with clients and colleagues has really helped. I’m always growing my network and seeking ways to better help those in it. Not only do people return the favor, but it also makes for much more enjoyable and rewarding work.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Failing to meet self-imposed deadlines. I usually just realize a deadline is too ambitious or premature, which helps me better plan future projects.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

How about software that could intelligently reply to emails when all that’s required is only communicating basic information? Wouldn’t that be nice?

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I listen to a lot of country music.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use WebEx, Twiddla, and Skype when I work with clients outside New York. WebEx has a great feature that allows you to save all your digital scrap paper, while Twiddla is amazing for it ease of use.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Peter Fader’s 2012 Customer Centricity. It provides a great framework for thinking about long-term customer value that’s useful for any type of business.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

John Jantsch: