We talked to Glen Jones, CEO at Emile Education about the need for diversification as a response to COVID and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Glen Jones: My family and I have a routine established now and I think that has helped to achieve harmony in our household.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Emile Education.
Glen Jones: It’s been quite a journey. I studied maths & physics at university going on to be a programmer and then a patent attorney. Wanting a more dynamic role, and seeing an opportunity to help teachers and students learn, I set up Cyber Coach in 2013. We supplied online wake and shake resources to over 15% of the schools in the UK & Ireland. In 2017, we wanted to expand into more core curriculum areas and partnered with academics from Manchester Metropolitan University to develop Emile. Emile uses low stake testing to help reinforce content and gamification to engage with students so that they want to answer questions.
How does Emile Education innovate?
Glen Jones: Ostensibly, our bigger innovations come from an aim to produce a new income line every 3 years with an associated team setup to devise and deliver the project. Our smaller product evolutions come from being close to our customers. In normal times, we would be visiting 2-3 schools a week listening to their issues and their ideas.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Glen Jones: Fairly neutrally from a turnover perspective. Our products are sold on an annual re-occurring basis. With a very low churn rate and Government grants, we have maintained our turnover. However, it has prevented us from establishing Emile more broadly in schools. We were looking to establish a group of geographically disperse vanguard schools to have Emile for free and act as reference sites between January 2020 and September 2020. We will obviously restart this work when we are able to visit schools again. As such, it does feel like the business development on Emile has stalled over the last 12 months.
In another regard, covid has made us diversify. We are launching three new projects this year rather than one!
- Emile as a home learning tool for families to use at home
- Teaching overseas students English by app and online lessons
- A wellbeing resource to help teachers deliver the new Relationship curriculum in the UK called a “Guide to Life”
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Glen Jones: We were lucky enough to not need to reduce staff numbers. The staff that visited schools have been furloughed or re-deployed to one of our new projects.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Glen Jones: We’re less phone-based now. Before Covid, I was very keen on phoning customers: making sure they were okay, following up on inquiries, and so on. Teachers are in normal times difficult to get hold of by phone and now it’s even worse. So we are providing much more support by email and WhatsApp. We have our own basic CRM that we have integrated with ActiveCampaign so no new systems were needed to support home workers.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Glen Jones: Yes. The UK Government’s furlough scheme (paying 80% of workers’ salaries for those not working) has made us able to maintain our workforce. We also benefitted from a one-off payment in March last year due to paying business rates.
Your final thoughts?
Glen Jones: Covid has changed our lives. I believe it will change public attitudes to work, to education and will leave an eye-watering amount of public debt. SMEs need to think about what they are doing and whether that market will exist in the future. Covid is an opportunity to take a breath and see if you can expand your business into other areas.