What does it take to start up a business?


Every parent wants their kids to do well in school.  Even with a lot of the great schools we have in the Kansas City area (with some obvious exceptions) there are a lot of kids that would benefit from an opportunity to learn more…to learn new ways to learn, especially when it comes to math!

That was a big part of the mindset that Chris Kuttenkuler had when he decided to open Math Monkey of Leawood.  A franchise operation that offers Math Enrichment for gradeschool age kids in a game based classroom environment and 1-on-1 tutoring for all ages in an online environment.

However having a good idea (and even having a good product) isn’t enough to succeed in the long run.

Chris Kuttenkuler knows what it takes to start up a business and succeed.

Imagine starting a brand new business at the beginning of a bad economy, selling a brand, an idea and a product that no one has ever heard of. That was the situation that Chris faced back in the summer of 2007. It was an uphill battle, but it’s an uphill battle that a lot of new business owners face.

Chris is the owner of Math Monkey of Leawood and this past March has been his best month ever after  two and a half years in business. Math Monkey is a franchise that offers math enrichment classes for elementary age kids and 1-on-1 remote tutoring for all ages in over 40 different subjects.

Because Math Monkey is a new concept and a new franchise, Chris knew that he would be facing a real challenge that almost all business owners face in terms of getting noticed by potential customers. The first year, even the first 18 months was slower than expected but by concentrating on a few key ideas he has successfully turned the corner, is growing his business and he’s created a strong group of excited kids and parents in Johnson County.

Keys to Success:

Deliver more than your customers expect: Before you’ll get referrals, before you’ll develop confidence, before people will start talking about you, you need to deliver outstanding value. Chris focused on this from day one and consistently hears great feedback from parents and students.

Chris describes the feedback he gets: “Parents are always amazed and thanking me for what we’re doing at Math Monkey – the kids are excited to come to class each day and parents are thrilled that they no longer fight with their kids when it is time to do their homework!”.

Are you creating fans of your business?

Keep working consistently: It takes a long time to build up your business and it takes a lot of hard work and sustained effort. You need a consistent approach for marketing and delivering on your business. It takes people several exposures to understand who you are and what you do. If that story changes over time, or if you don’t show up for a while you will lose all of your progress.

“I knew this was going to be a lot of hard work.” Chris told us. “But I also knew that this was a great service and we could help kids get excited and more confident in math, so it made sense to keep pushing forward”. It may sound obvious, but you have to put in the same effort in year two that you did just starting out.

Do something you love: Or at least do something that you really enjoy. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your business – especially in the first couple of years, so it better be worth getting out of bed for.  In addition, it’s pretty easy for customers or potential customers to tell if you don’t really care about the product or service that you provide and if you’re not excited, why would they be excited?

Chris is involved in every aspect of his business and although the business success is great, it’s the students succeeding that really keep him motivated and coming back for more.

Do you love what you do?

Get the basics right and your chances of success go way up.

A lot of businesses fail early on. About one third of small businesses fail in the first 2 years and just over half fail within the first four years.

There are a lot of things you need for long term business success. You’ve got to have a product that people are willing to pay for. You’ve got to have enough money in the bank to get you through the start-up and any slow times. But the real keys are the basics that Chris focuses on – delivering more than people expect, showing up and putting in the effort every single day and bringing passion to what you do. If you can do those 3 things you’ll give yourself a real fighting chance for success.

What do you do in your business to insure success?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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