Learning to grow with Tutor Doctor


Sep 27, 2018

“This franchise system does a lot of good. Education is so important in giving young people culture and scope. We are excited to work with the head office, as we have a number of territories, so we can test out new ideas before they are rolled out worldwide. This is the fun part!”  - Teresa Johnston


Barry and Teresa Johnston bought in 2017 an existing Tutor Doctor franchise covering the Fraser Valley territory in BC.


I was born in Scotland, and my family immigrated to Canada when I was six years old.

In trying to feed my enthusiasm for growth opportunities, I was looking through businesses for sale when I came across the Tutor Doctor opportunity in our area.

Many years ago, I had determined four criteria any business had to meet before I would invest my money in it: (a) the industry had to be growing, (b) the profit margins had to be high, (c) the customer base needed to be retainable and repeatable and (d) the business had to be recession-resistant.

The Tutor Doctor concept met all of these criteria. There was a growing marketplace, genuine demand for its services and minimal dependency on the ebbs and flows of the larger economy. This last point was particularly important for me, as I had always been let go during recessions, so my career had been very economically sensitive. I wanted to be more insulated from those cycles.

I was not looking for a franchise when I ran across the ad in November 2016 but having been on my own in the business world before, I knew joining the right system could yield a tremendous amount of wisdom, help and support.

I would be reaching out to clients who need certain resources, which is very similar to my experience in professional recruiting. I also knew I was good at taking an existing enterprise and making it bigger. For one of the software companies, I had hired more than 500 people in two years.

Tutor Doctor also appealed to us on a more personal level. Our eldest child has learning disabilities. We put him in private school, which cost a fortune but did not benefit him as much as we had hoped. We realized tutoring for his specific needs was a more effective option. That aspect of Tutor Doctor really spoke to me.

I have noticed classrooms follow a social hierarchy, where children are always judged by their peers. One-on-one home tutoring facilitates faster education, where the child is safe and free from that hierarchy. There is no judgment to hinder their learning process.

The previous franchisee had built the business up from nothing over eight years and was now looking to step back, due to health issues. The sale was the largest in the franchise system’s history.

I did my training in the first week of April in Toronto, while Teresa trained with the former franchisee. We also had to move the office within the first two weeks of taking it over. To say there were some logistical snags would be an understatement!

The learning curve was not steep, but it involved many pieces. For example, I had always worked with a direct business-to-business (B2B) sales force in the past, so I had to adjust to a business-to-consumer (B2C) approach. The marketing materials designed by our head office certainly helped in this respect, with the right messaging to position our services.

We did not really know beforehand how we would divide the management of this business, but a year in, I have taken on operations and recruitment, while Teresa handles marketing.

We have an option to take on the Okanagan Valley and we have already signed our first family in Kelowna, B.C. In fact, we can sell anywhere in British Columbia that is not currently protected by another franchise agreement. I foresee our area becoming an important one for Tutor Doctor’s future growth.



I am from Victoria. My parents were entrepreneurs and we moved all around British Columbia over the years.

We are always looking for investment opportunities. We wanted to pick up an existing operation that would fit our strengths. When Barry came across this Tutor Doctor unit, there was a connection between the recruiting industry we knew intimately, as the business involved matching parents with tutors for their children, and the needs for tutoring we had experienced with our own children.

Initially, the only downside for me was it was a franchise. We had looked into other franchises in the past, but they seemed expensive, with too much control of the franchisees by the franchisor, which I felt would limit me.

Yet, the more I learned about the Tutor Doctor model, the more excited I became. It was a disruptor in the tutoring field and allowed for fresh ideas, real co-operation between franchisees and bold moves. I knew we would have enough freedom to build the business further.

We have owned the franchise for a year now. The previous franchisee was very involved at the unit level but did not recognize or take advantage of all of the benefits provided by the head office. I can call them up and ask questions. At the same time, they neither overwhelm nor limit us.

About four months in, everything was rebranded. This was a bit of a shock, as it meant a significant financial investment for us so early into running the business, but when we stepped back and saw the greater plan, we knew it was the right direction for Tutor Doctor.

The new materials are great. The brand concept, which represents how everyone can learn, is very current, fresh and forward-thinking. It also works well online, which is where many people find us in the first place.

Our marketing is multi-faceted, as we are looking both for new clients and for new tutors all the time.

Over the next year, I will focus on localized marketing, to help accomplish the growth we seek. We will ensure we have feet on the ground in our communities. I find this is a lot of fun and a creative outlet. Our son who is in college helps us out with social media.

We just finished a community outreach program, for example, where we offered 100 flu prevention kits to local schools. It was a simple but meaningful and much-needed way to give back to teachers in our region.

We knew when we bought this franchise we would have a lot of processes to set up and get running smoothly. We had to train our staff to use new software to make things more efficient which was a lot of work but has made us ready to take on many more customers across a larger area. We’re in that place now where everyone is on-side.

As a result, we as a family have the freedom to go on vacations together for March Break, in the summer and at Christmas.

Also, our tutors work closely with teachers to focus on their school’s curriculum, rather than on branded materials arbitrarily created by a company.

This franchise system does a lot of good. Education is so important in giving young people culture and scope. We are excited to work with the head office, as we have a number of territories, so we can test out new ideas before they are rolled out worldwide. This is the fun part!

Tutor Doctor, the world's fastest growing one-to-one in-home private tutoring franchise. Learn more about this exciting franchise opportunity in their listing at BeTheBoss.ca