Beyond the Classroom Founder, Cathy Thompson, shares how her growing franchise business stays in control and on track with FreshBooks Select.
You could say Cathy Thompson invented the side-hustle (before side-hustling was even a term). With a passion for teaching children, she began tutoring young students part-time, while also completing her university degree and selling IBM computers on the side.
What Cathy didn’t expect was how her love of working with kids would blossom into Beyond the Classroom, a custom in-home tutoring service for children in JK through Grade 12.
The turning point for Cathy—when she couldn’t handle the sheer volume of requests coming in through word-of-mouth referrals and recommendations from the parents of her students. With no additional time available to take on more students, she started reaching out to qualified friends to see if they could help lighten her load. She wanted to make sure these kids got the help they required.
Cathy quickly realized that she needed to make a deliberate decision to jump in with both feet, if she really wanted to turn this part-time passion project into a full-time business.
“I didn’t want to do (Beyond the Classroom) an injustice by just keeping it on a string and afloat part-time and not paying attention to it. I knew I needed to make a conscious decision to work on the business and keep the high-quality service and that did require more hours from me.”
That was 20 years ago. Today, that side-hustle has grown into a mature, custom in-home tutoring service that supports and develops the whole child. Beyond the Classroom’s tutors are also looking for other issues in a child’s life that could affect their learning.
The Introduction to FreshBooks Select to Manage a Growing Roster of Tutors
Cathy was first introduced to FreshBooks by a close friend who was also a fan of the software. The feature that really caught her attention: Time Tracking. Since there are over 50 contractors at her main franchise locations in Burlington and Oakville, Ontario, she needed a solution that allowed her to track time and turn it into invoices quickly and easily.
With FreshBooks team timesheets, Cathy could invoice directly from each contractor’s projects (each student that a contractor works with is considered its own “project”). According to Cathy, “Whatever (the contractor) enters, I invoice for. So for me, that action is so streamlined. (I don’t need to) worry about transcribing errors. It’s just saved me many, many, many hours of work.”
Not the mention the cost-savings as well. At one point in time, Cathy had a contract employee on staff to take care of all the company’s invoicing. But, once she got started with FreshBooks, she was able to easily take care of invoicing directly from the software and eliminate any costly overhead associated with having an employee on staff.
The Importance of a Bird’s Eye View
There are several Beyond the Classroom franchise locations around Ontario, which can each hold anywhere from 10 to 60 contractors. To keep things organized, Cathy has her franchisees follow her lead.
“It’s mandatory that they use FreshBooks. They set up their own FreshBooks account and handle all [their own] invoicing and contractors.”
As the franchisor, Cathy needs to have a comprehensive view of her other franchise locations. Thanks to cloud accounting solutions like FreshBooks, she can see how her company is doing as a whole, in one glance. This means all her reports include data from her multiple franchise locations.
And this information is helping her make educated decisions to continue growing Beyond the Classroom.
Streamlining Operations With the Right Accounting Solution
As Beyond the Classroom started to grow, Cathy did a light search to make sure FreshBooks was still the right tool for her.
“I haven’t seen anything (else) that encompasses all of the components that I need for Beyond the Classroom. The only thing would be for me to create it myself—and that’s not my business. I have enough on the go and to create. I recommend FreshBooks all the time. Overall, it saves me time, the information is readily accessible to me [and] it continues to come up with reports that I need for taxes and invoicing. [Plus,] customers can use it very easily.”
With more franchise locations popping up, Cathy is in the process of having all of her operations moved over to FreshBooks Select, to help her further streamline operations. One of the most exciting features that Cathy is looking forward to is a customized payment integration.
Each location at Beyond the Classroom has its own merchant services separate from FreshBooks, which Cathy is in the process of integrating. Having control over these services will allow an entered credit card number to be charged on a recurring basis.
“I feel confident in the [FreshBooks Select] system. And if you don’t trust your systems, you’re in trouble.”
Looking Ahead: The Power of Big-Picture Thinking
Cathy’s rise from part-time side-hustler to full-time franchiser, made her realize just how important it is to think big—bigger than she ever thought—in life and business.
“Dream bigger than you think (your business) is going to be and then continue to search for the tools that you need at each stage. It’s difficult to expand at a larger level without the right systems and tools.”
In fact, Cathy often coaches other entrepreneurs to find ways to work themselves out of the business over time, which can be achieved if you have the right tools in place to help replicate some of the more tedious tasks you perform every day.
Cathy’s parting words: “Think about how to replicate yourself and work yourself out of your business. So, you can free up time and really enjoy life, instead of anchoring yourself.”
about the author
Lisa is passionate about small business success, having managed funding programs for hundreds of Canadian start-ups and entrepreneurs. She is presently Senior Content Marketing Manager at FreshBooks.