Alin Dumitrescu | Crain's Seattle

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Alin Dumitrescu


Headquartered in Baltimore, Sylvan Learning is a tutoring franchise with more than 750 locations throughout North America that cater to students in grades K-12. Sylvan offers on-site and online instruction in reading, writing and math, as well as college and test prep courses. Alin Dumitrescu owns and operates two Sylvan locations in Seattle.

The Mistake:

When I took over this Sylvan Learning location in 2013, I underestimated the amount of time and effort it would take to ramp up, and get a good handle on all the major aspects of the business. I assumed there would be a transition period, but I didn’t anticipate any major obstacles.

I was wrong. For example, we had some key people leave because they weren’t willing to adjust to the changes. In hindsight, the turnover was normal; that’s what happens when the leadership changes. But at the time, I didn’t expect that.

My learning curve ended up taking much longer than the six months I originally anticipated –  it took closer to two years.

Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

The Lesson:

Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.

Because I was taking over an existing business, I kind of expected everything to be in place, for the most part. I assumed that the franchise model was well-defined and that the transition would be easier because of it.

Nothing is ever that easy.

Even if a business appears to be running smoothly when you take over, you’ll always run into unexpected problems. That’s a natural part of running a new business. I should have planned for that. What’s more: I was new to this field –  my background is in computer science – so I should have expected a tougher learning curve, regardless.

Now, I always plan before I jump.

Follow Sylvan Learning on Twitter at: @Sylvan Learning

Photo courtesy of Alin Dumitrescu

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