NAMIBIAN ADVENTURES – WHAT’S NEEDED TO SUPPLY STAFF IN JUST 48 HOURS!
An introduction to Minerva Tutors
As many of you who have read our recent posts will know, we at Somerset Estates place considerable importance on our business values and choose to work with only those business partners who share the same values. So I was delighted to be able to chat recently to Hugh Viney of Minerva, and discover a complete meeting of minds when it comes to providing only the highest standards of service for our respective clients.
Hugh is the head of Minerva Tutors, an education company that provides educational services for the children of high, and ultra-high net-worth clients (UHNWs) who live globally. Minerva’s services include tutoring, homeschooling and securing school placements for their clients’ children, aged between 4 and 18, not only within the UK but around the world.
Describing their work Hugh told me that: ‘Typically, Minerva works with families who want to send their kids to the best British private schools, so we guide them on that journey in order to help them get there. We also send tutors around the world to form part of the household staff of UHNWs, alongside their nannies, butlers and drivers. Anything that you could possibly want help with, in relation to your child’s education, we provide it’.
Why brand values matter
Hugh then went on to talk about the core brand values that Minerva lives by, and how those values were reflected in their service. ‘Firstly, we started the company with the idea that every child should have the opportunity to succeed, so we are committed to ensuring that happens for every child in our care. In terms of values, there are four things that differentiate us from our competitors. We call them “The Four Ts”.
‘The first ‘T’ stands for ‘tutoring style’ whereby our tutors focus on motivation, confidence, and well-being above academic attainment. If your child is happy, if your child is motivated, if your child is confident, the academics will come along and your child will achieve top results.
‘Our second ‘T’ relates to our ‘tutor team’. Our tutors are, quite deliberately, a small, close-knit team that we know really well, and who possess the most impeccable academic backgrounds, those from Oxbridge or Cambridge university or top American universities. Each tutor’s background is checked before coming through a stringent three-stage interviewing process.
‘Our third ‘T’ stands for ‘tech’, which is massively important to us. We provide a tech platform for parents, a parent portal where they can log in and track the progress of their child over the long or short term. And our final ‘T’ stands for ‘training’. We are committed to upscaling our tutors so we provide training for them every month.’
When asked about how important it is for Minerva to find the right people and how they go about doing that, it was pleasing to hear that, as with Somerset Estates, they begin with ‘a consultative approach’ especially because UHNW customers want the best of the best. Hugh went on to say:
‘When parents come to us, we listen to their needs and those of their child. We take time to get to know them, so the perfect match can be made between the tutor and the child. That is the most important thing; the right tutor for the right child’.
In a similar way to Minerva, our business principles are based on core values, namely quality, trust and transparency. These values are fundamental to our approach in upholding a markedly high level of service that we have been offering to UHNW clients over many years. Our clients expect nothing less.
The importance of recruitment
Furthermore, when it comes to our staff, we only employ those who fully understand the importance of our values and are capable of adopting a professional and considerate approach towards our clients at all times. It is all about choosing key people whom we and our clients can trust implicitly to care for their properties.
Clearly, there are close parallels between our two companies, but what I find particularly interesting is that not only do we share core brand values, but we also share family values as both our businesses were founded and run by family members.
Discretion and confidentiality
When moving on to the subject of discretion and client confidentiality, Hugh was asked where discretion might have been challenged and what rules were adopted to ensure client confidentiality.
Hugh mentioned two examples. ‘Firstly, there was a Hollywood family from LA who were over here in the UK shooting a film for a year. Sending their children to a local school for a year wasn’t feasible, so they home-schooled them with us. It was a lovely job. One of the tutor’s was an aspiring actress, and she was thrilled to be doing it. She fully understood the importance of family discretion and would never disclose anything that she should not have disclosed. Discretion is one of our golden rules with our tutors.
‘Secondly, when working with certain royal families, the tutor has to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before they start work. It just shows the kind of environment our tutors work in, but they are used to it.’
Again, as with Minerva, we too work with royalty and absolute discretion is certainly a requirement that we insist upon but, at times, it can be challenging. The storage and sharing of data, for example, can bring its own challenges. We always make sure that staff are completely aware that, yes, we do work with important clients, and it is fine for us to discuss client issues within the confines of the office, but that these discussions always remain confidential.
The challenges and opportunities of lockdown
As with countless other businesses throughout the world, lockdown has presented its own unique problems. Hugh explained that: ‘As soon as lockdown hit in March, we had to move our entire operation online. We launched an online learning platform, Minerva Tutors TV, and offered familiarisation webinars to parents who weren’t experienced in online tuition – so they could see just how easy it would be for their child to learn from one of our tutors via Zoom. As lockdown lifted, parents were keen to start face-to-face tuition again, which has been a challenge in some areas, but this is at the tutor’s discretion and where restrictions permit.’
At Somerset Estates, lockdown has presented us with similar challenges. Things can easily change on a daily, weekly and monthly basis especially in the property world where, for example, we have found gaining access to supplies has been a bit more challenging. In some cases it has led to delays.
One case in point concerns a refurbishment of a client’s property and a request for a particular type of leather wallcovering that was only made in Paris. The lockdown in France affected the manufacturing industry which, in turn, led to delays in the supply chain. What this has meant for our client, in spite of our best efforts, is that their refurbishment is unlikely to be completed before Christmas. However, whilst recognising that we have to adapt to living in different times we will always endeavour to meet our clients’ expectations and make them feel valued.
Communication is key
Clearly, when it comes to dealing with demanding expectations, UHNWs have extraordinarily high expectations. So it was very interesting to learn the ways in which Hugh and his team have managed those expectations, and why people keep coming back to them.
He believed that: ‘Communication is essential. Our tutors are interacting with our clients on a daily basis, and our tutors really are a cut above the rest or we wouldn’t have such good repeat business. And because we also have such a solid client manager team it means that parents or guardians always have someone else to talk to who is not a tutor.
‘This means that there is, always, a third person involved in the educational journey of their child, and parents feel really supported by that. Parents also have our online portal, Temple, where they can log in and track the progress of their children’s journey with us. Everything is accountable, everything our tutor and their child has done in the last week or the last term, is all there for them to see.
‘Sometimes a client’s demands can be extraordinarily high. For example, one job came in where the client, based in Namibia, wanted a tutor – nothing out of the ordinary – but the catch was we didn’t have a long recruitment period. We pulled out all the stops and had a tutor on the plane for them in under 48 hours. When she arrived they loved her so much she stayed for two years! I like that one because a day or two earlier the tutor had no clue what was about to happen. But you get that with tutoring – it’s always a bit of an adventure.’
Celebrating the power of partnerships
Finally, it was great to hear Hugh’s thoughts on why he thought Somerset Estates makes such a good partner company for Minerva and how saw that partnership evolving?
‘The more I have got to know Philippa, the more I have seen how much integrity she has, and how much integrity the business has. Their values are totally in line with ours. To top it off, they are a family business and we see the value in that. We’re on a shared journey – it’s the perfect match!’
If you would like to speak to a member of the team from Minerva Tutors or Somerset Estates please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Philippa Somerset (Director)