Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in training and education but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tyler York, Co-Founder and CEO of Achievable, located in Covina, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Achievable exam preparation guides learners through a personalized learning experience, reinforcing what they’ve learned as they study and giving people certainty that they’re ready to ace their exams. Our platform uses advanced learning science methodologies and an advanced personalization engine to optimize the learning experience for optimal results automatically. Achievable currently offers a GRE exam course, FINRA exam courses, ACT exam course, USMLE Step 1 exam course, and AMC exam courses. We are most prominent in the finance industry, where employees need to pass FINRA licensing exams like the FINRA SIE exam in order to get jobs and expand the scope of their roles.
Tell us about yourself
I was always passionate about being an entrepreneur from a young age. It started in my teens when I was growing up in Silicon Valley through the dot-com bubble and continued as I graduated college into the thick of startup hype in 2010. Starting a company seemed like such an ambitious and glamorous thing to do. Of course, it is actually a lot of work, and most moments are far from glamorous - but I was hooked and wanted to prove myself to the world.
Justin and I had a shared goal to become entrepreneurs and wanted to do it together. We started a few small companies together before we went our separate ways and embarked on our careers. Through his time working in education technology, Justin experienced the power of adaptive learning firsthand, specifically a method called spaced rehearsal that leverages memory science to help you remember things longer. He saw how this method, integrated properly into a learning experience, dramatically improved student outcomes. Spaced rehearsal is popular in the language learning community and used ad hoc in the classroom, but has not been widely applied to test preparation. We saw the opportunity to build a vertically integrated solution that gave total control over the learning experience for maximum benefit to the student. That’s why we started Achievable and brought that vision to life.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Our biggest accomplishment has been building a test preparation platform that has meaningfully changed the lives of our customers. Achievable was founded to make it possible for anyone from any background to conquer the opportunity-gating exams standing between them and their goals. Whether our customers are trying to get into their dream college, graduate school, or career, it’s crucial that they do well on these tests. That’s why we’re so proud of our 95% or higher success rate for all Achievable prep course customers.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I joke with my friends that the hardest part about being an entrepreneur is that you’re doing six entry-level jobs at once. And it’s true - the entrepreneur life involves a lot of work, and it is often not glamorous work either. Want to improve your site’s SEO? Better go study up using the great free resources out there. Want to make marketing videos? Time to learn video editing. It can be very challenging to manage this - not only do you have to learn new skills constantly to get the work done, but you also need to be able to frequently context-switch between very different types of work and skills. Add in all the other responsibilities of being an entrepreneur, like hiring, finance, HR, and more, and it can be a lot of plates to spin all at once. My word of advice on this is to get really good at task management, prioritization, and organization - as you grow, this will go from being helpful to being crucial for juggling your many priorities.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
First, I think the best advice I could give would be to put more time and effort into research and trying new things. Have you ever heard the old phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? As an entrepreneur, I like to say that an ounce of research is worth a pound of work. As an entrepreneur, you’re learning all the time - when, where, how does a customer buy? Which markets should we enter? Which customer segment has the best market fit with our product? While there is no substitute for actually going out and selling the thing, research can be a huge help in accelerating your learning curve. You can often learn more from a survey or customer interview than you can from a month of running marketing split tests. I always thought of user research as ancillary to marketing, but I was wrong - it can save you a ton of time and accelerate your journey to product-market fit.
Second, when you’re in the marketing phase, you should always try new channels, tactics, and more. In the last seven months, Achievable has tried a ton of new channels and methods for our business, and in many cases, I ask myself, “Why didn’t I try this sooner?” It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you’re already doing - oftentimes, what you’re already doing would be one or more full-time jobs at a bigger company. But that will only limit your growth to what it is today and prevent you from finding a new acquisition channel that is twice as effective as any you had found before. You should always make time for new experiments - they give you more ‘shots on goal’ as you try to accelerate from growth to hypergrowth.
And third, make time for rest. Starting a company is a marathon and a sprint - you must go as fast as possible and maintain that for 5-7 years or more. This can be exhausting and cause burnout if you’re not conscious of your limits. You need to make time to disconnect, whether that’s on the weekends or on vacation, to recharge your batteries and stay productive for multiple years.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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