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A Conversation With: Susan Valverde and Sarah Miller of Sylvan Learning

Nick Powills and Charles Internicola are joined by Susan Valverde, Sylvan Learning’s Chief Franchise Operations Officer, and franchisee Sarah Miller, to discuss how the franchise brand is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

The coronavirus continues to have dire effects on businesses across the country, and the franchise industry is no exception. Franchisors across segments are strategizing new ways to support their franchisees, keep customers satisfied, help local communities and come out stronger on the other side of this crisis.

To that end, 1851 Franchise publisher Nick Powills and Charles Internicola, founder and partner of the Internicola Law* Firm, are covering the coronavirus and its impact on businesses through our A Conversation With webinar series.

In today’s afternoon webinar, Powills and Internicola spoke with Susan Valverde, Chief Franchise Operations Officer of Sylvan Learning*, and Sarah Miller, multi-unit Sylvan franchisee, about how franchisors and franchisees can learn from the COVID-19 crisis. 

Here are some of the key insights from their discussion.

A Changing Education Environment

The children’s education industry has been profoundly disrupted, so it is important for brands in the segment to make families aware that they are available. Sylvan Learning is serving communities in a way that reflects the core values of the brand by putting the needs of families and students first. 

It is a chaotic time for the education segment, especially as schools prepare for long-term closures. Still, education will remain a priority, and the brands that pivot quickly are the ones that will step up to fulfil that need. Sylvan has been serving students in person for over four decades but was able to pivot to virtual services in 48 hours. 

The brands that have invested in digital systems over the past few years are in a much better position to adapt. Now, brands with a strong foundation will be the trusted partners who can help schools during this challenging time. Sylvan Learning has worked hard to digitize operations and create a cloud-based system for franchisees over the past few years, which has made it easier to navigate this crisis. 

Smart franchisors will be able to leverage new opportunities to keep up with changing consumer demands. Since teachers are now coming into the homes of their students, there is a chance for brands to create stronger, personalized educational systems to help families. 

Creating Stronger Teams

Sylvan Learning has a team motto: “tough times don’t last, tough teams do.” A strong operations team is able to provide a sturdy foundation for trying times and ground the entire brand culture. 

The U.S. is a resilient nation with policy makers working hard to position small business owners for success. If a brand’s internal operations are strong, the external circumstances can work toward it's advantage. 

The concept of currency is changing now. Since every company has taken a financial beating, brands are finding value in compassion and community-driven missions. Brands that believe strongly in the good of their business model are able to be proud of what they do and cope better with the chaos of this crisis. 

The consumer promise needs to be much more than a marketing tagline — it should be how the leadership and franchisees operate everyday. If teams have the same core values and beliefs throughout the franchise network, franchisees and leadership can provide best practices and help each other through this. Now that situations are changing depending on the market, it is important that communication is prioritized. 

The old lines drawn in the sand between franchisor and franchisee are becoming less and less important. At the end of the day, the two groups need to be united through the tools and resources they have to achieve their mission. Sylvan holds several calls for all franchisees and keeps a direct line of communication open at all times to ensure that the connection stays strong. 

The Process of Moving Forward

Reopening guides will look different for every community. Franchisors should have a nationwide plan for reopening, but be prepared to adapt that plan depending on the health situation of each county.

This situation may not have been the way brands wanted to pilot the roll out of new virtual offerings, but it will likely provide valuable, long-term systems that are used in the future. Franchisees have been forced to learn how to adapt and learn new systems quickly. 

Moving forward, the support systems and flexible business models that franchisors develop during this time will create stronger validators for prospective franchisees coming in. This crisis has the opportunity to create a more confident culture buy-in for the franchisees.

*This brand is a paid partner of 1851 Franchise. For more information on paid partnerships please click here.