cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Teacher, Entrepreneur, Teacherpreneur? Colin Hegarty of HegartyMaths

New and Networking

Teacher, Entrepreneur, Teacherpreneur? Colin Hegarty of HegartyMaths

Colin Hegarty has made in to the semi-finals of Pitch to Rich by creating a new way for students ages 8-17 to study maths. His free website HegartyMaths teaches children maths in a way that makes them feel confident, fills in the gaps in their knowledge and helps them succeed.

When we saw an advert for the Pitch to Rich competition this year, I knew we just had to enter.  We work on the principle that if you don’t try you don’t get and, as such, we felt we simply had to try.

We entered the Start-up section with over 1,000 other entrants and after the initial public vote and shortlisting we have made it to the final 11 start-ups with a chance to make the final 3.  We are so proud of what we have achieved thus far and have been overwhelmed by the public support helping us get this far.

Our team is a made up of three, myself, a maths teacher, Brian Arnold, another maths teacher and an ex-student of ours Dan Keeble.  Reflecting on our journey to date it became clear to me that many of the traits that have helped us on this journey have actually come from being a classroom teacher and it dawned on me that there are many skills that a great teacher and an entrepreneur may share…

The old adage above couldn’t be further from the truth in my opinion.  I like to say “those who can, have unrelenting energy, buckets full of passion, an ability to be masterful communicators and work in sometimes tough conditions, teach” 

And so begins my thinking that there may be much more in common in the art of teaching and entrepreneurship than may meet the eye.  Here are but a few of the traits I believe successful teachers and entrepreneurs share:

teacher

The art of selling:

What’s the situation at the front of a class? Well sometimes you are standing in front of 30 teenagers about to tell them about something they may have no immediate interest in. Their lives are full of more “interesting” and “engaging” topics from social media, to BGT, to the excitement and trauma of just growing up. The teacher has to “sell” an idea to their students that what they’ve got to say is interesting, is useful and is worth being away from the mobile phone to hear about.

teach

A great teacher has the passion, character and ability to do this – to interest those pupils and inspire them into their subject and world. It’s not always easy and students may not have the patience of adult consumers who may often patiently listen even when a presentation or pitch is boring. A young student will say it as they see it and tell you it’s boring. A teacher can’t just say “oh well you don’t have to buy it anyway” – a teacher must keep going and try to inspire no matter what.  A great teacher is a great sales person but their product is knowledge and life skills.

Management and team building:

A great teacher effectively has a team of 30 people in front of them. They have to manage the mood of their pupils, the interactions between the students and the ultimate aim is to get the best for everyone in that room. A great teacher needs to control and manage all this in a live, closed environment. There is no open plan floor on top of a high rise skyscraper to spread people out and avoid personality clashes - there is a small room in which shoulders bang against shoulders where there is so much potential but so much needs to be done. A great teacher can make that room work for the benefit of those personalities and the class as a whole.

Understanding and empathy:

A great teacher knows their students so well – this doesn’t mean they know every single intimidate detail about their lives. What it means is, a teacher knows what makes each student in that room tick. One student may need the carrot, another may need the stick.  One student may enjoy a joke made at their expense as part of the class banter another may be traumatised by such a moment. A great teacher understands what makes their pupils stay motivated and happy.

Knowing what the customer wants:

A great teacher delivers the content in a way the pupil needs. Teachers using their language call this "scaffolding" or "differentiation" but what we mean is we can tailor or pitch our product, which is knowledge, to what each student needs. We do this 30 times each lesson for 5 classes a day. Now that takes some understanding of your consumer!

Furthermore I think a great teacher has the balance that the phrase “the customer is always right” doesn’t always necessarily convey. Of course you have to listen to your customers and react to their needs but at the same time you cannot pander to every single whim – you need to tell the difference between a moan by someone who moans at anything and a moan because what you are doing is not up to scratch. This is a teachers constant daily job – to listen to their students but separate the genuine feedback from the not so genuine or helpful.

Adaptive and ever-improving:

When I started teaching a colleague I respect so highly said to me “the day you think you know it all in teaching is the day you should quit.” How right he was and this was the best piece of advice I have had in teaching or life in general.

A great teacher reviews the lesson that has just happened and honestly asks themselves how could that have been even better – is there anything I should and must change to squeeze even the slightest marginal gain out for my class?

What makes teaching even harder is that after a poor lesson (all it takes is a wasp to enter a room on a hot day with 30 hot and bothered teenagers for chaos to ensue) you have to pick yourself up again and not bring those bad vibes to the next class waiting outside. Even if you’ve lost a bit of confidence, are a bit upset or just knackered you have to be ready as you cannot let the pupils about to come in down.

Great teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve and adapt. Whether is be using new technology to refining traditional methods to make them even more effective. The Japanese call this “Kaizen” – which means continuous small improvements in oneself or practices.

tea

Passionate and caring:

A great teacher exudes passion and deeply cares about their plight. This is infectious for the students in the care of that teacher.

Teacherpreneur?

There are so many more traits I haven't even mentioned from working under tight budgets, to dealing with time pressure and ever-changing landscapes and I could go on.

Our journey into entrepreneurship with our PitchToRich campaign is for our new maths website that we are building to help pupils learn maths for free.  Our aim is to level the playing field in maths education so all have access to quality home support. We feel the classroom has been the perfect place for us to keep our entrepreneurial skills honed.  I've heard there is an emerging word for it right now where a teacher starts a business in the educational world - the word being "teacherpreneur".  I would argue we don’t need another word – teacher says it all.

Top 5 tips:

1)    If you don’t ask you don’t get

Don’t be afraid to ask for a favour, for some support, for someone’s time.  If you have got something you genuinely believe in then you have to be it’s main advocate.

2)    Don’t forget to say please and thank you.

I know it’s obvious but my parents told me when growing up manners cost you nothing but are worth everything.  If you are asking for a favour or someone’s time take the time to say thank you.  Everyone’s time is valuable in today’s world.  It is amazing how many emails I get a day from people asking me for favours but not a single “please” or “thank you” in sight.

3)    Hard work and resilience pay off

My favourite quote and one I always share with my pupils is from a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed which tries to dispel the myth of natural talent and instead says all great achievements are down to a combination of, yes some talent, but more importantly a work ethic, purposeful practice and ability to learn from mistakes.  The quote says:

“If you want to bend it like Beckham or fade it like Tiger you have to work like crazy , regardless of your genes, creed or colour.  There is no shortcut to success in life”


 

I believe that with hard work you make your own luck and, for me, it gives me the confidence when presenting, pitching to know I am well prepared and couldn’t have done anymore.  The worst feeling is going into a meeting underprepared and worrying about getting caught out.

4)    Does your business make genuinely people’s lives better?

As Richard Branson says “a business is simply an idea that makes peoples lives better.”  I think you have to ask yourself this question honestly.  If your idea genuinely has a place that saves people money, time, helps them then you can be evangelical about your product with sincerity and honesty.  People know when someone is genuine and so I believe time spent really reflecting on how your idea helps people and tailoring it to do so takes away a lot of the other worries.

5)    Believe in yourself and your dream and you can compete with the big players.

They say you can change the world from your bedroom nowadays.  Our site it used by thousands of students everyday with 4 million world-wide views and we work out of a bedroom in my house in west London.   Although big companies have big money and big teams there is so many advantages to a small team in a start-up.  The energy, freedom and close alignment between the team of core missions is so powerful that real magic can happen.  Believing you can do it is half the battle!

 
Colin Hegarty
Teacher of Maths, Preston Manor, Wembley
Founder of HegartyMaths.com
See my PitchToRich here and support me if you feel a worthy cause.