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Last Update: Sunday February 23, 2020

Key Idea: Do It Cheaper, Faster and Better

Tom Sawner is beating big competitors with quality and service.

Key Question:


Find out where they are weak then expose that weakness to the customers you are going after.  Tom came out of the shoot with a lower price solution because as a new company he did not have the high costs associated with old technology, long-term employees and high-rent offices.

Educational Options picked an area of online learning that others were in nearly by default and they became the superior offer in that area.  His courses are for at-risk students and his approach has never been to replace a teacher but to provide a teacher with the best tools to help the struggling kid who has missed classroom teaching for various reasons. 

Think about it

Would you even consider going up against big companies?   Can you make money by offering products or services at value pricing?  Who are the big guys in your market and where are they vulnerable? 

Clip from: Educational Options

Educational Options

Tom Sawner, CEO

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Do It Cheaper, Faster and Better

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Meet Tom Sawner, owner and CEO of Educational Options

TOM SAWNER:  Educational Options’ key market is public schools and we work with a segment of their population that for whatever reason they’re having difficulty with.  

HATTIE: (Voiceover)  The online curriculum is being constantly refined by his team based in Arlington Virginia.

TOM: What we do is we have a fully approved curriculum for grades 7-12.  We can typically help a school double the mastery of content and quite frequently they can do it in about half the time and for about half the cost.

This is not independent study because we keep teacher in the loop.  It allows each student to learn and the teacher is there when they need help. It allows mass individualized instruction. Which sounds oxymoronic but it really works.

There are 3 metrics that I track.  We tend to have a little more than a 99% renewal rate.  Sixty-two percent of our clients increase their usage over what they did the year before and sixty percent of our new clients came from referrals that we didn’t even know about
It helps that we are the best value because we are priced at least fifty percent below the big boys in the competition.

Because our technology is so good it gives us a huge edge over the imbedded players.  We have a huge edge because we are a pure internet based model.  Nothing has to go on the school server so they don’t need technician. Educational Options supplies the technical support.  The help desk team has the  goal to answer every call in person on the second ring.

My biggest role as CEO is to create the right culture.  A culture of caring leadership. I try to hire people who have the core value of wanting to make a difference. When I first bought the company we only had five employees.  We needed a curriculum department.

HATTIE: (Voiceover)  That was in 2003.  Today over 60 men and women are working hard at Educational Options to revolutionize the way we all learn.

TOM: We hocked everything we had some property in the Shanandoah Valley and house here in Arlington and we said this is something we are going to try to make a go of.  We were sweating bullets for a little while there. More importantly I’m able to build a company for the long run instead of something being pressured just to meet some return on investment criteria.

HATTIE:(Voiceover) Personal setbacks including his home being wiped out by Hurricane Andrew and two bouts with cancer steeled Tom for business ownership.

TOM:  As I’ve said to groups I have talk to about life lessons of a cancer survivor, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy but I wouldn’t give the experience back at all.  

Sometimes it gets tough. But I think its part of the entrepreneurial spirit that you don’t give up, you look at different strategies.  Change something so that you can be successful at what ever it is an just keep going at it.

My vision is for Educational Options to be the dominant provider of high tech assistance to public schools in the United States.  Help transform the way we help students gain mastery. My vision of the future for education is to transform the classroom.
We genuinely like what we do. We’re making a difference in the lives of kids.  Last year we served over 100,000 at risk kids and that makes me feel really good.

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