[quote style=”boxed”]Clearly repeat over and over again what goals you are trying to have your organization achieve, and prioritize achieving them. [/quote]
Roger Israni is the Founder and President of Test Masters Educational Services, Inc., a Houston-based educational services company that offers professional test preparation services in the form of books, classroom courses, online courses, one-on-one courses, and private tutoring for a variety of admissions tests and professional licensing exams, including the SAT, PSAT, SAT Subject Tests, ACT, ISEE, LSAT, EIT, PE, GMAT, and GRE exams. Test Masters was founded in 1991 and has served over 100,000 students. Roger is responsible for creating the original content for most Test Masters’ courses and has over twenty years of experience teaching directly to students, assisting in test strategy research and development, and training his own staff to maintain the quality of the courses. Test Masters has had unparalleled success in particular in preparing students for the PSAT and SAT, producing more perfect SAT scores and more National Merit Semi-Finalists annually than any other local test preparation company. Test Masters is a respected name in PSAT and SAT preparation, serving students nationwide and around the world. It is also the largest company providing EIT and PE Engineering Courses in the United States.
Where did the idea for TestMasters come from?
I founded TestMasters with my father. I always wanted to teach and have had a long-time interest in “cracking the code” (beating the test). We started off with high school entrance exams, but have now moved into a wide variety of tests, including graduate tests and private school admissions.
I always thought I would start a business, but it was great to start one I was interested in. My family was very supportive; my father helped start the company in 1991 and we worked for a long time to gain enough students to create regular, ongoing classes. Now we are twenty years strong, and I have enjoyed every one of them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spend a lot of my day making sure our students have what they need, from materials to class information. I also work with our teachers to continually improve our teaching techniques and focus heavily on research and development to make sure our strategies stay strong.
How do you bring ideas to life?
We realized long ago that ideas are much easier to understand when they are engaging, so no matter what I do, I make sure the material we teach our students is exciting. When students are not engaged, it lessens what they learn. Our class is a chance for them to learn, but have fun, too.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
I’m a big fan of the digital advancements that have come about over the last decade. Much of what we do in our industry is digitally focused. Education has become possible across vast distances and time zones, any time of day. We have really expanded our own digital classes, but it goes way beyond TestMasters to a larger trend: the use of digital methods to improve education for the students of the future.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I have a strong work ethic. I am used to working, and happy to do my best to make the company better for our teachers, students, and students’ parents.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
There’s no such thing as a bad job. My first job, though, was at McDonald’s. It taught me a lot about developing a strong work ethic and being part of an organization. When I later started a business, I understood what it was like to be an employee and took that into account in everything I did.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
The first couple of years after we started in 1991, Test Masters did not have its own office. Instead, we decided to save a little bit of money by operating out of our house. Looking back, that was probably a mistake. Once we did get our first office, our business started to grow exponentially.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Clearly repeat over and over again what goals you are trying to have your organization achieve, and prioritize achieving them. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
This may sound cliché, but providing excellent service to our students really is the key. Our students love our classes, and our teachers work hard to give them the best possible in-class experience.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Not getting rid of bad apples (employees) quickly enough. People that do not want to be in your organization should get what they want.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
You can succeed in any industry, and the more you enjoy it, the better you will likely do. But if I had to tell someone to start a business, I would suggest looking toward some of the growing fields right now that are hot and getting involved. Bio tech and genetics research is a great field, full of opportunity. It takes a certain expertise to start a business like that, but I would suggest interested students and prospective entrepreneurs take a look.
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I have twin boys; they’re amazing. I also Iike dumb comedy; which I know is weird for an education entrepreneur.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
Google’s tools really are effective, which makes sense, considering they are the world’s largest search engine as well as the strongest search-focused company. I love how you can really target exactly what you want to find out. And they have actually gotten more sophisticated over time, sharing more and more with users. But many of our daily business analyses have more to do with keeping our eyes and ears open than any particular software we use.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki had an important impact on my perspective on business stages.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Honestly, I’m a big fan of everyone on NPR. I also like Edudemic and Flipped Learning, they are very cool. I love hearing about interesting new takes on education.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.