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Meet Jay Bacrania of Signet Education in Cambridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jay Bacrania.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Our story begins in 2005, with me (Jay Bacrania) and my partner Andrew Magliozzi co-founding a company called Veritas Tutors. The business was an outgrowth of the private tutoring we had both done during our time at Harvard College.

Although there were many reputable individual tutors around, we were one of the few companies who became well-known, and we had success pretty early on.

Our initial services were subject tutoring and test prep, and as we began to grow, we faced a decision about our business: whether to continue to run a small personal tutoring practice, or whether to create an organization able to provide broader offerings and reach a greater number of people. We opted for the latter approach (although we’re still quite a small company!), but it was important to us that we retain the deep and authentic connections we had always built with our students and families.

As we looked toward expansion, it was important that we recruited and trained the absolute best educators. We firmly believe that we are educators who run a business, rather than a business focused on education. That distinction is reflected in every aspect of our approach. We are driven by the desire to continually find new and better ways to educate and serve our clients.

Over the years, we have developed deep knowledge and powerful tools that we use to train brilliant tutors, and to match students with the best tutor for their specific needs. We now offer a broad range of services, from SAT test prep to organizational coaching. We’ve since renamed ourselves Signet Education, but we are still on the same journey of trying to build the best company we can imagine for everyone involved, and to improve in some way the lives of everyone we come in contact with.

Has it been a smooth road?
I am the son of an engineer, and I love building systems. For most of the company’s existence, one of our challenges has been building systems that helps us respect and serve our students, families, and our employees, while still offering each client a highly individualized approach. We want to tailor and personalize each student’s experience with us as much as possible; we never want our students or our tutors to feel like they’re just going through the motions, At the same time, we also want to be efficient and streamlined in the way that we run as an organization.

Managing those two ideals continually challenges us to be more innovative in the way we do business.

Another challenge we have faced is the way people sometimes view the tutoring industry. The tutoring world is fragmented, with a low barrier to entry. There are many great tutors out there, but also many who are underqualified, inexperienced, or ethically suspect so clients will sometimes meet us with a preconceived stereotype in mind. They’ll expect us to push expensive courses, and to be only focused on the bottom line. Part of what we aim to do by providing tons of free content is change people’s impressions about the ways legitimate, well-trained tutoring companies can significantly improve students’ school experience, whether that’s by boosting grades or helping them reduce stress.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We have two locations — one in Cambridge, MA, and one in NYC, with our main office located in Harvard Square. We provide comprehensive, educational services for students from 6th grade through graduate school.

Our mission is to inspire a love of learning, genuine academic growth, and holistic success in our students’ lives. We empower students to become lifelong independent learners by teaching them the foundational skills for academic success, and every decision we make as a company is made with the interests and goals of our students and clients.

I think there are 6 things that set us apart (I’m admittedly a little biased):

  1. We are obsessively values-driven. Our values are: Care deeply, Be on the ball, Inspire confidence, and Teach students, not subjects. These values are part of everything that we do, and they are the compass we follow when designing a new service or offering to make sure we stay on track.
  2. We provide a range of services at a high level. Many tutoring companies focus on one area, such as standardized testing or subject tutoring, but Signet employs experts in many related fields to provide holistic guidance for a student’s entire academic career. We offer test prep, subject tutoring, organizational coaching, and admissions consulting. This allows us to form long-term partnerships with students and families, because we understand the whole picture of their education. When we have a specific question, we coordinate with the other educators on our team to get it answered. We don’t have to guess when it comes to college admissions questions, for example, because we have a former admissions officer on our staff.
  3. We teach students, not subjects. This is one of our core values, but it’s important enough to talk about again. We take very seriously our role in helping individual students on their academic journey, and are not here to just teach one specific worldview to everyone we meet. We’re interested in the kind of exploration that leads to better education, deeper relationships, and ultimately more meaningful fulfillment.
  4. We work with amazing tutors. Given our locations, we are fortunate enough to have access to some of the brightest minds around. We are continually blown away by how talented our tutors are, and by their range of experience, accomplishment, and knowledge.
  5. We care about our employees. Every company says this, of course, but we work to make it more than just lip service. We offer things like competitive benefits, flexible scheduling, and remote work abilities. Plus, we throw a mean holiday party! We believe that creating a team who feels cared for only leads to better service for our clients. We talk about the Signet Family a lot, and that means our team members every bit as much as the families we serve.
  6. We connect with the broader community. Whether it’s through our pro bono tutoring efforts or our free blog content and weekly newsletters, we want to share as much of our knowledge as possible with the community at large. Yes, we sell time with our educators, but we are also driven to share and given away our content whenever we can. We continuously engage in outreach, partnerships with schools, and other community efforts.

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