I had the pleasure to interview Gil Gibori. Gil’s career has been anything but a straight line. Born in Israel, you can say that entrepreneurship is part of his DNA. He spent the first 10 years of his career as a molecular biologist before concluding that he didn’t have the attention span to stay in science forever. Starting his first consulting company at 31, he went on to become a serial entrepreneur. First, co-founding TTMI, Ltd, a small, unsuccessful technology transfer company that helped companies invest in scientific patents. His role at his first company evolved into founding Mentis LLC, a consulting firm that helped private investors identify life-science innovation. After several years, Gil followed a major national trend toward educational services and founded Chicago Academic, a premium tutoring and test prep firm. He had spent over 15 years working with teenagers as both a private and volunteer tutor. His passion for education and the impact he made was the most enjoyable part of his life. In 2009, Gil and his wife, Carrie, cofounded CA. As an immensely successful entrepreneur from the financial industry, Carrie combined her passion for business with his. They have since become a leading educational support company, serving hundreds of families, schools and organizations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago Academic was positioned at the nexus of child wellness, educational challenges and college preparation. Building on their unique position, and the expertise they garnered, in education, Gil came to the conclusion that the desperately antiquated model for tutoring and after school support was failing the modern student and family. He invented the newest disruption in tutoring, The House Tutoring Lounge®. Gil, Carrie and their team of experts are firmly convinced that their new concept for on-demand academic help, a curated teenager only ecosystem, and their application of new discoveries in adolescent neuroscience will completely disrupt and evolve extracurricular teenage support. Having over 5,000 student visits, and almost 11,000 hours of students in their education lounge, just in the first 8 months, has Gil convinced that the next chapter of his life will be impactful on a key part of modern education.
Thank you so much for joining us Gil! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Mycareer has been anything but a straight line. Born in Israel, you can say that entrepreneurship is part of my DNA. I spent the first 10 years of my career as a molecular biologist before concluding that I did not have the attention span to stay in science forever. Starting my first consulting company at 31, I went on to become a serial entrepreneur. First, I co-founded TTMI, Ltd, a small, unsuccessful technology transfer company that helped companies invest in cutting edge scientific patents. My role at the first company evolved into founding Mentis LLC, a consulting firm that helped private investors identify life science innovation.
After several years, I followed a major national trend toward educational services and founded Chicago Academic, a premium tutoring and test prep firm. My wife Carrie played a big role in helping make this possible as an immensely successful entrepreneur from the financial industry. We have since become a leading educational support company, serving hundreds of families, schools and organizations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Chicago Academic was positioned at the nexus of child wellness, educational challenges and college preparation.
Building on our success in education and coming to the conclusion that the desperately antiquated model for tutoring and after school support was failing the modern student and family, we founded The House Tutoring Lounge®. We are firmly convinced that this new concept for on-demand academic help, a curated ecosystem, and new discoveries in adolescent neuroscience will completely disrupt and evolve extracurricular teenage support. I have never been more excited about the impact we can make on education.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
The biggest challenge I learned in starting The House, is that an “entrepreneurial” environment is very different from a “start-up” one. When you feel you have the best idea the world has ever seen (an exaggeration, but symbolic of our team’s passion), you want to get it out the door right away. We spent an intense year putting together the most incredible team and planning every detail of our operation before we opened. Having attracted such amazing people caused the ones less built for this panicked start-up mode to stand out and fall off. It allows the best to rise, but it never feels great to lose teammates.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
Carrie and I have always learned from other successful business models. We have listened intently to the families and schools we serve and take our place in the education community seriously. In a single moment, the idea for The House came to us as the solution to so many of our industry’s challenges. Our team was intensely committed to opening our doors from day one with the absolute best service possible. We were equally focused on processing everything, so that we could start planning our next location on day two. We opened our doors with 800 pages already built into our process and training “playbook”. We have designed a corporate culture as novel as the concept itself.
This was no mom-and-pop business when we finally opened our doors in January 2019. It was a national brand with only its first location. The community of stakeholders — families, schools, educators and clinicians — have enthusiastically accepted our model and are driving our growth. To hear education and child wellness professionals of the highest caliber describe The House as a “necessity”, and having families from around the country reach out and insist that we come to their community next validates what we feel to be true. The House is perfectly situated to protect, support and inspire the teenager of today.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”?
- You have to earn your title. The typical CEO earns their title on the front end. As a founder, you get the CEO title first, then you have to earn it.
- Working harder, longer and faster than anyone else serves as a good example for the team but does not give you the license to hold it against them. You can inspire or demean with your efforts. The line is thin and sometimes hard to see. A good team deserves carrots, never sticks.
- The choice is ultimately yours. Being CEO means that sometimes you need to look at your immensely talented team, including your partners, and just make a call. Prolonged debate can cripple an effort. You are the keeper of the global vision; your view is widest. Sometimes you just need to own that, make the decision and move your team forward. It’s not always a pleasant experience, especially when you turn out to be wrong.
- You’re not the talent, you’re the guide. You really need to live the adage, “Hire brilliant people and get the [email protected]#% out of the way!” As CEO, my job is to hire smarter experts than me, build an inspirational culture to allow them to coalesce, and guide them like a symphony conductor.
- Don’t be scared, be concerned. The first invokes panic, the latter can coexist with boundless optimism. Being optimistic without concern is delusion. Being panicked without confidence is fatal.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Find the time and activities to experience joy. For me, the greatest serenity comes from time alone with Carrie, my wife and business partner. Being together all day at work is never relaxing, albeit tremendously exciting to see us building our new idea together. Time alone is rejuvenating for me. Immerse yourself in your family and friends. Our four children serve as my quicksand of pure joy. They may be young, and not always easy, but they are, by far, my truest delight.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Marrying and partnering with a woman who achieved a high level of success early in adulthood forced me to aim high from day one. More so, living up to her belief in my abilities and talents actually caused me anxiety. How could I live up to her perception? What was she seeing, and how did I make sure she didn’t discover that she was wrong?
Since childhood, impressing the girls has been a major force driving my efforts. You should have seen how much better my game on the basketball court was when the girls showed up. It’s an entirely different game when the girl sleeps next to you every night.
The system is simple. Carrie voraciously reads books about business and tells me what she learned. If she was simply my business partner, I might get a summary memo. As my wife, I get a quick recap and “the look.” It’s the “how are you going to run with what I just taught you buddy?” look. It’s the same look I would get on the basketball court. The one that said, why aren’t you dunking like the other boys? When your wife tells you constantly that you’ll succeed at anything, it means you better work hard at everything.
I think she’s proud today. It really doesn’t matter though. Tonight, I’m going to get the “what’s next?” look.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
My wife and I have plans to live in different countries with our children. We are not built to be tourists. We want to spend months at a time in other countries, summers around the world. Our business and our family prioritize inclusiveness and celebrate diversity. With children, you can only teach so much at the dinner table. They simply need to live our lessons. That is a hard thing to do living in suburbia USA. After all, life is an immersive experience. So, our plan is to spend as much time in as many new places as we can before our kids spread their wings.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
I want the world to respect teenagers. I want adults to stop rolling their eyes, and just listen. This could be the greatest generation, if they survive. We have built the most intense industrial anxiety complex in our history. These kids have more pressure on their shoulders than anyone before them. The teenage mind is not capable of experiencing stress from the moment they awake to the minute they sleep. The greatest legacy The House can leave is that we have served as an oasis for these kids to relax, connect and truly be themselves.
The formula of the 1950’s that success equals happiness has been proven counterproductive by serious researchers. Current science, and simple intuition, clearly show us that happiness equals success, true life-invigorating success. Confident, content students find paths conducive to who they are. These students find great “success” when measured by metrics related to professional satisfaction, personal harmony and general happiness. Our generation has translated care into visceral micromanagement, becoming our children’s “prosthetic ambition.” Come to The House and see these kids thrive when allowed to be at peace.
I want my legacy to be an evolved view of how we reach teenagers.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
I would love to convince the government to incentivize and pay for every high school student to live abroad. I have done so a few times. The world has much to teach us. We are not the greatest country in education or innovation, but we can be. If we could just look past our borders, appreciate the genius and energy that lies beyond, we would invoke the greatest acceleration of progress the world has ever seen. The United States, when we choose to be, is the greatest optimizer of genius on the planet. Our vision has no limit, but our view is constricted.
How can our readers follow you on social media
Don’t follow me; follow The House Tutoring Lounge and the amazing team I lead.