Steve has over 15 years of tutoring experience and specializes in math and standardized test prep. As Educational Director, Steve oversees curriculum development and the Academic Coach hiring and training process. He is focused on maintaining the high level of service that our NYC students and families have come to expect from Private Prep.
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A Quotable CEO Mojo Moment:
I truly care about what I do. I still tutor. By working with students directly, it reminds me what I do and why I do it. I really think that what we’re doing is very important, and because I care so much about what I do, it motivates me to do it well.
– Steve Feldman, http://www.privateprep.com/
Joe Apfelbaum: Welcome to CEO Mojo, where we motivate business leaders to inspire the world with their stories. In our show, we talk about the ideas, stories, and lessons that motivate business executives. At CEO Mojo, you will get motivated. Whether you’re listening to CEO interviews or reading our blog, you can count on getting inspired and maybe even learning something along the way. Remember, you can always tune in at www.ceomojo.com.
Joe Apfelbaum: Today, we have with us, Steve Feldman, the founder and educational director of Private Prep. Steve, welcome to the program.
Steve Feldman: Thanks for having me, Joe. I’m excited to chat with you and help out anyway I can.
Joe Apfelbaum: So Private Prep is a company that helps students with tutors. Can you tell us more about what the company does?
Steve Feldman: Absolutely. So, we are a private tutoring service based in New York City. Our three biggest markets are here in New York City, in Long Island and in Westchester. About half of what we do is standardized test prep. We cater to students taking the SAT and ACT, primarily juniors and seniors applying to colleges. The other half is working with students who just need help in academic subjects, whether it’s enrichment, remedial support; a lot of times we work with students who really want to excel and get to that, be the best they can possibly be. So they maybe have a B+ or an A-, and they want an A. So we do a lot of tutoring just for classes, languages, sciences, math, et cetera. And we also do college counseling so we provide student guidance on which schools to apply to and then help them make the application the best it can be so they have the best opportunity to get into the elite schools they’re going after.
Joe Apfelbaum: So you started the company in 2006. You completely started it from scratch. What gave you the idea to do it? I know that you were in finance, and then you moved to tutoring. That’s a big transition. Did you have some type of a problem that you couldn’t solve?
Steve Feldman: I never really had a problem, and finance and education are certainly very different industries. The one thing I always highlight is that they’re similar in that before I graduated from college in 2003, I worked in finance, as you mentioned, for a couple years, and I worked in wealth management where we worked primarily with high net wealth individuals, managing their money and helping them grow their wealth. And then, what I do now, again, is working primarily with high net wealth individuals and their families. And what’s in common is that it’s a very . . . people are highly sensitive and highly emotional about their wealth and their money, and they’re also very emotional about their students, I mean, their children and their academic success.
So, those two things are in line and a lot in finance, I had to manage families and manage people and support on the client services side, which is hugely important; I think one of the things that differentiates Private Prep. But yeah, so I’ve been involved in education for a long time. My mom was a teacher when she was growing up so I’ve actually been tutoring since high school, tutored throughout college. I went to school in Atlanta at Emery, and then when I moved to New York City to work in finance, I moonlighted as a tutor and recognized that that was more of my calling. I really enjoyed it. Students liked working with me and parents thought I was a great fit for their kids so they started referring more and more friends; and I was at the point in my career where I had to kind of choose to devote myself to my, at the time, was my full time job in finance versus what I was doing on the side in the evenings and weekends with tutoring.
And in 2006, I decided to walk away from the job in finance and focus on starting my own business, which was obviously a challenge.
Joe Apfelbaum: So you focused on, yeah, so you focused on starting your own business. You made the transition, you launched. What was your first year like?
Steve Feldman: The first year was arguably the greatest year of my life. I joke that I was 25 years old, and I was still learning and I’m still learning today, but learning even more then. I was really tutoring a lot on my own and I knew that I was building a business, but I wasn’t necessarily dead set that this was what I had to be doing. And there was days that first year and even the first two years, probably, where I would look in the mirror or talk to my then girlfriend, now wife, about how I was starting the greatest company in the world and I was so excited and knew that what I was building was going to be really spectacular. And there were days when I’d look in the mirror and say, “What am I doing? I need to get a real job.”
And so I think, along the way, there was more and more days where I was gaining confidence in what I was doing and it was clear to me that I was doing something special that would work out. And so, it was challenging, I think mostly, if anything, psychologically because I was doing it on my own at the time. I was doing a lot of tutoring myself, and I knew it wasn’t sustainable for me to be teaching and tutoring on my own every afternoon and evening, and it wasn’t the life I wanted to live so I needed to start to hire more and more people to work with me. And I’ve been fortunate to be successful at doing that.
Joe Apfelbaum: So how do you take that spunk that you had the first year, and after doing your business for many years now, how do you put that, inject that, into your day to day right now to keep motivated? Because you have to create systems now, things are not the same. You have 150 people that work under you. What is that you do to motivate yourself?
Steve Feldman: You know, I think I’m very fortunate in that I truly care about what I do. I really, I still tutor. I used to tutor 20, 30 hours a week. I now tutor just one or two hours a week. But by working with students directly, it reminds me what I do and why I do it. And so, I really think that what we’re doing is very important and I know that our end product of working with students and helping to mold future leaders is important. Because I care so much about what I do, it allows me to, it motivates me to want to do it and do it well. And I think that caring is one of our core values, is that we have that type of culture of caring where we not only support our students but also our families. We care about not only their academic success but their overall happiness as a student given all the pressures that many middle school and high school students face especially in the very competitive world that they’re in.