Volume 7, Number 1, 1997

Tutoring service goes back to basics

Beverly Stewart Cox, HP '79, '84M, left the classroom more than a decade ago, but the former third-grade teacher is still in the business of education. She has parlayed what was originally a second job as a tutor into her own firm-Back to Basics Tutoring Service Inc. The 12-year-old company, which started at Cox's kitchen table, now employs about 75 tutors who work with students, either on-site at the company's Wilmington, Del., headquarters or at the students' own homes, schools or workplaces in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.

Originally a service for elementary, middle and high school students in such traditional areas as reading, algebra, calculus and chemistry, Back to Basics has cast its subject net wider over the years, adding GRE/GMAT preparation courses; language skills and cultural orientation for business executives; ESL, or English as a Second Language; GED preparation; and training in so-called "soft" skills, such as customer service and time management. Corporate clients include DuPont, Hercules, ICI, W.L. Gore, Ametek, Zeneca and the state of Delaware. Cox's staff of highly skilled tutors all have at least a bachelor's degree, many have earned master's degrees and doctorates and all must have teaching experience.

"I have all different kinds of people on staff. Each has expertise in a certain area. Some people speak five languages. And, I have an instructor who can tutor proficiently in 19 subjects," Cox says. Teaching expertise is key to a successful tutor-student relationship, but personality matches are equally as important, Cox has learned. "We do small groups and one-on-one," Cox says. "Rapport is crucial, and I do look at personalities. When I have a call from a new account, whether it's a corporation, individual or a class, I pick the instructor to match the situation. I know that has been a huge part of our success."

"There were lots of sacrifices," Cox recalls of Back to Basics' beginnings. "You have to be prepared in those early years to give it everything you have.

"You have to put aside your personal life. You have to eat, sleep, drink, breathe this, and I still do after 12 years."

By most people's standards, Cox has hardly slowed down. Now, she only works 10- to 12-hour days and even takes an occasional vacation. Knowing her firm has outlasted much of her competition has helped her to relax a little.

"I've had to learn to lighten up," she says. "I really enjoy my career and my business and helping my employees enjoy their daily work. I used to get really stressed out and was a Type A personality. I'm an A-minus now."

-Robert DiGiacomo, AS '88