Introducing our Chairman Mark Rutter
April 2, 2020 / Libby Barrett
At Open Study College, we pride ourselves on having a fantastic team, all with a wealth of experience, not just in their field of expertise, but across the education sector. No more so than our founder and chairman Mark Rutter, who set up Open Study College back in 2007 alongside his daughter Samantha and close family members.
Mark has been working in the education industry for over 27 years and specifically within the distance learning sector. He has years of knowledge and experience that he used to set up the foundations of Open Study College, building it on what he believed the distance learning education industry needed.
“I initially started [my career in education] as a course adviser offering a distance learning bookkeeping course in 1993. It was a lot different back then. Computers weren’t common in households, so we’d advise on courses door to door.”
Mark saw even back then, the benefits that distance learning was providing to people, and the opportunity it brought not just to learners but for himself too.
“At that time, the company was small, with me being one of only 4 student advisers taking the courses to learners. I loved the buzz of helping people to better themselves and I was keen to do more. “
“Over the following 14 years the company grew to over 100 course advisers with over 200 staff which created more opportunities for me – From my position as course adviser, I worked through the ranks to completing my tenure as Sales Director for my last 4 years with the business.”
He was inspired to set up Open Study College because there were so many things in the company he was working in, that could have been done so much better.
“In 2003 the company was sold. Over the next 4 years the business changed significantly”
“Alongside my family, I realised we could do it better and really focus on what we felt mattered; the quality of the courses, student support and customer service – they are still some of the core values at the heart of who we are today. So, in 2007, with these core values we setup Open Study College.”
Like many of us, Mark didn’t always plan to work in education and had a very varied career before he got there! He left school and started a four-year apprenticeship as a motor mechanic and part salesman, before progressing onto something quite different.
“In 1983 I started a position as an insurance agent, advising on insurance products and progressing to district office manager of Wiltshire and then the larger county of Lincolnshire. We moved around the country for some years whilst I continued to work in similar roles.”
Mark then came across distance learning just by coincidence, as he, like many people at the time hadn’t been aware of the concept. It was a time before computers and digital were common, meaning distance learning wasn’t widely available.
“Way back in 1993, distance learning really was the new kid on the block and very few people had heard of it, including me.”
“As a family, we were keen to return to our roots in Birmingham. I saw an advert in the local newspaper for a course adviser, went for a meeting and really liked the concept and the flexibility that learning this way gave people. And the rest, as they say, is history!”
Having worked in the industry for a while, Mark really appreciates the benefits that education can give to people.
“[Working in education] is rewarding in many ways but most of all it’s fantastic to think that over my 27 years within the distance learning industry I have both directly and indirectly helped over 250,000 students.”
“But what gets me up every morning is that we are really changing people’s lives every day. I’m proud of every single one of the entire team at OSC for the dedication and joy that they put into enabling anyone and everyone to achieve their dreams…”
But of course, like most companies, building a business hasn’t always been a smooth ride.
“There have been one or two challenges over the years, from the early days of myself and Samantha working multiple jobs and long hours to get the business off the ground, but each year we have gone from strength to strength, particularly over the last 5 years. But I do believe that after 27 years within the industry and almost 14 years as a business owner, I’d like to think I have seen most things and take those challenges in my stride. It’s important to keep level-headed and not to panic.”
“My advice for any budding entrepreneurs is to take things slow, don’t rush things, they will come if you plan, prepare and have a great team around you. Treat everyone with respect, you never know when you need them.”
“I’m so proud of what Open Study College has achieved. It’s become a very robust and genuine company with family ethos at the heart of it that travels through every one of our strong team. OSC has helped so many people achieve their goals and we are honoured that over 90,000 students so far have chosen us to be part of that.”
Mark has been pivotal to the success of OSC and delivering the best distance learning experience to our students. But Mark believes success is born from teamwork, so over the course of the next few weeks, we are interviewing some of our people, including our CEO Samantha who took over as CEO in 2018, to really give you a flavour of the heart of the company.