066: In 2008 2 brothers in NZ started an online toolkit for teachers. $30m AUD sales p.a., 80%+ gross profit, 30%+ operating profit. 2 FTE, now 180. Grew 18 to 58 countries in last year. Funded by bootstrapping until sold 80% in 2017 (Alex Burke)

Presented by Troy Trewin

Troy has worked intimately with 26 businesses in 20 years. He knows their numbers, understands their growing pains and people issues and has helped with most financial aspects, as well as having coached on leadership and management.

December 28, 2020

In this episode, I interview Alex Burke, the visionary CEO of New Zealand EduTech company, Education Perfect (EP). A passionate storyteller, Alex boasts an enviable twenty-year track record in driving technical excellence and team-building across multiple industries, including airlines, banking, government, telco, education, and retail. He was previously the CEO of Tigerspike, a technology services business that he sold in 2017.

Founded in 2008, Education Perfect is a toolkit for teachers in the classroom. At the start of Covid, they tested a free trial and picked an extra 500,000 additional students with 10% of those converting to paid. They have grown 40% in the last year with international at an amazing 350% and have expanded from 18 to now 58 countries. 

Alex and his brother started out as the only full-time employees and now have 180 full-time employees. They are very profitable with their gross profit at over 80% and operating margin of more than 30% on AUD30 Million in annual sales. They bootstrapped the business since its inception and 3 years ago they sold 80% of it to a private equity firm. Alex shares that he felt he had succeeded when he saw continuous improvement in both his companies. 

He believes the hardest thing about growing a small business is, “Keeping your people together, keeping good governance, and keeping focused on opportunities” The one thing he says he would tell himself on day one of starting out in business is, “Every day is really different. You’ve got to get up and end today excited by tomorrow” Stay tuned for a ton of small business growth wisdom from Alex and much more.

This Cast Covers:

  • Building an online learning platform that serves as a toolkit for teachers within the classroom.
  • How they took the opportunity to put out their product during the pandemic and how it accelerated their growth plan.
  • Achieving profitability with 30% operating margins and growing organically by running purely from cash flow.
  • The two brothers who came up with the idea for Education Perfect to support their learning efforts.
  • Why success for Alex is all about being driven by continuous improvement.
  • Measuring the success of a business by the way it’s able to retain its team members.
  • The importance of being good at execution and pushing things through.
  • Using multiple methods of metrics to get customer feedback and the overall power of obsessing over the customer.
  • How the founders of Education Perfect started it and bootstrapped until they sold 80% of it to a private equity firm.
  • The digital services tech company (Tigerspike) that he bootstrapped until he exited it in 2017.
  • The difficulty of growing a business while maintaining a certain level of governance and balance.
  • The value of having clear roles and responsibilities, and accountability in a business.
  • Dealing with the challenges of cash flow and getting the business known in the market.
  • How obsessing over quality and reputation can really pay off for a business.
  • Lifting the bar for the business by bringing in people who can inject some additional experience and skillset.
  • Early to rise, early to bed: How Alex maintains some work-life balance.
  • Developing himself professionally by building out his own network and working within a business.
  • The lessons he learned from managing Tigerspike and exiting the business.

Additional Resources:

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Quotes:

“Success relates to continuous improvement” – Alex Burke

“Success in business boils down to your people, your culture and employee engagement” – Alex Burke

“You can’t underestimate the power of being customer-centric” – Alex Burke

“Businesses are a results game” – Alex Burke

“If you don’t have job descriptions, you can lose focus really quickly” – Alex Burke

“You’ve got to be obsessed over quality and reputation” – Alex Burke

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Music from https://filmmusic.io “Cold Funk” by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com). License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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