The great part about running a small company is that you are agile. If we have an idea, it’s easy to put into play. Large companies don’t have the luxury to try out new ideas often.
Ryan Neman, a lifelong Angeleno, has always had an unbridled industrious spirit and a passion for entrepreneurship. Having always been a problem solver, he teamed up with Skyler at the age of 19 with the aim of improving the problem-ridden tutoring industry. As the President of www.heytutor.com, his shrewd analytical abilities and sharp aptitude for systems thinking are allowing him to do exactly that. Nothing drives Ryan more than being told isn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t be able to do something – he’s intrinsically motivated by the need to prove naysayers wrong. He enthusiastically embraces challenges, while tackling them with a thoughtful and deliberate leadership style. He’s of the mind that optimal outcomes are the result of having an eye towards the future and a foot in the past. “We have to make sure we move forward, but we also have to make sure we’re understanding and learning from history – our own, our competitors’, and our industry’s.” In addition to guiding him in his role at HeyTutor, this mentality fuels his ardent interest in history (which was his major while he was at UCLA). Apart from being a history buff, Ryan’s a straight shooter who believes that “everything should be upfront because honesty solves problems – most things can be easily dealt with if you deal with thing head-on.” He believes that if you “plan for the worst and hope for the best, you’re never surprised.” This makes him measured and intentional – the perfect complement to Skyler’s more instinctive approach. Ryan grew up playing lacrosse and soccer. While still passionate about team sports, he’s also developed a broader interest in health and wellness – he lifts and works out regularly. He’s an avid basketball fan who’s never missed a Laker’s game – a tradition he’s not planning to abandon anytime soon. He loves dogs (and all animals, in general) and enjoys spending time with his close-knit family. His favorite way to decompress, however, is to spend some quality time playing Fortnite. Ryan has an affinity for hip hop – everything from old school groups like NWA and Wu-Tang Clan to more contemporary artists. This and an interest in rap & hip-hop, along with a fondness for all-time musical greats like Aretha Franklin and Phil Collins, round out his musical repertoire – something in which he’s passionate about being current and in the know.
Where did the idea for HeyTutor come from?
My co-founder Skyler and I knew from the start that we wanted a simple, short, catchy name that didn’t cost too much for the domain. After a few weeks of brainstorming on different ideas, we were meeting to pitch new names, and my dog Fluffy was lingering around. To get his attention, I yelled “hey fluffy!” (in my dog voice). Skyler grabbed me and said, “wow, HeyTutor could be a great name. The domain was cheap, it was short, and catchy. Not much more we could ask for – so we went for it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My typical day starts with oversight. I’m checking everything from our lead counts, to new sign ups, to matches being made. I’m making sure the engine is running smoothly before moving on to a specific project I’m working on. The great part about being a founder is that your schedule changes as quickly as the company changes. I may be working on developmental edits one week, to a new marketing campaign another week. I stay pretty organized by focusing on one task at a time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The great part about running a small company is that you are agile. If we have an idea, it’s easy to put into play. Large companies don’t have the luxury to try out new ideas often. There is a lot more on the line for a large company to make that transition.
What’s one trend that excites you?
A trend that excites me its SaaS and marketplaces. I love that software has made it possible for consumers to cut out the middle man and choose products and services for themselves. Back in the day consumers would need to go through an agency or “middle man” for services like travel bookings, to drivers, to finding a tutor. In today’s world, technology has enabled us to directly connect both buyers and sellers without a middle man. And that’s exactly what we did with heytutor.com.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A habit of mine that makes me more productive as an entrepreneur is that I’m always looking for a competitive edge. I’m always looking for creative ways for my business to run more efficiently, and to run better than my competitor. I’m always open to trying new things – even if I think it may be a lost cause, it still could be worth a try.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Unless you want to be a doctor or lawyer, a college degree is almost always a waste of time. The price is not worth the reward. You’ll usually prepare for your future job by working – not by going to school.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am always looking for feedback. To this day, I still speak to our customers and tutors and ask what we can do to improve. What features do they want? How can I help them learn better? What can we do to help them run their tutoring business more efficiently? In the end of the day, heytutor.com is used solely to provide value to our users. So why not always be listening to them?
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One strategy that has helped us grow is bootstrapping. We never took on outside capital, which forced us to be as resourceful as possible. We didn’t have the luxury to afford a high customer acquisition cost. We were forced to acquire our customers for cheap, otherwise we wouldn’t survive. It made us look for the most effective marketing channels which we still use today and is the reason why we are self sustainable. Anyone with a lot of capital can essentially put up expensive ads and generate tons of revenue – but that doesn’t mean it makes sense in proportion to your customer lifetime value.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One failure I had as an entrepreneur was during the first year of development with heytutor.com. It was my first-time planning for the build of a hyper-local marketplace, and we planned it horribly. I was used to the traditional agency model and didn’t understand the complexities of running a service agency solely through a website – with no human interaction whatsoever. Certain parts of the website that seemed like instinct for me, were not the same for first time users. Simplifying the platform and educating our users became our primary goal after we launched.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would start a business that simplifies the process in connecting journalists with sources. Certain sites do exist, but they can be significantly improved in a way that would provide much more value to both parties.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The best $100 I recently spent was on a team dinner with a few of our employees. There is something different about connecting with your co-workers outside of the office. Everyone feels more involved and more motivated to grow the company. It emphasizes that everyone is on the same boat on the journey of our startup.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Gusto has made my life easier since the day hired our first employee. I always dreaded the burden of payroll once I knew we needed more team members. With Gusto, it became non-existent. A great example of a company that provides a tremendous amount of value at a low cost.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
To be honest, I don’t read too many books. I’m a big fan of reading articles and blogs, but I never seemed to get through more than 20 pages of a book without losing focus. The one (short) book I did read and can recommend, is “How to Win at the Sport of Business“ by Mark Cuban. It’s not too long, straight to the point, and doesn’t have too much fluff. Might save you from a few mistakes down the line.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite quote is actually from the book mentioned above, “You only have to be right one time.” It has kept my head up during any downfall or failure.
- Use software to optimize your business and keep it efficient
- Bootstrap your company- if you can
- Keep your team close. Share the victory of success with them
Ryan Neman on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryan-neman-2430935b