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Franchise Development Leaders: The Goddard School’s Dennis Maple

The Goddard School’s newly-minted CEO plans to draw on his ample Fortune 500 experience as he prepares to take charge of the nationally recognized childcare brand.

With more than 500 locations across the country, The Goddard School likely rings a bell for many families. The early education brand based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania serves more than 65,000 students and is known for its play-based curriculum—and its attractive franchise opportunity. 

Enter Dennis Maple, the new CEO of Goddard Systems, Inc., the franchisor of The Goddard School. Maple joined the brand in September, succeeding former CEO Joe Schumacher. After a 37-year career supporting the K-12 community, including roles as president of First Student, Inc. and president of Aramark Education, it was Maple’s deep-rooted passion for education instilled in him by his parents that ultimately led him to The Goddard School.

1851 caught up with Maple to discuss what led him to franchising, what he would change about the industry and what makes a great franchisee.

1851: How did you first get into franchising?

Maple: While this is my first role in franchising, my previous experience at large companies like The Quaker Oats Company, PepsiCo, Inc., Kraft Foods and Coors Brewing Company had me interacting with brokers, distributors and bottlers. These third-party relationships share a number of similarities with franchising. I believe my management experience honed from the world of Fortune 500 companies, combined with my knowledge of the early education space, will allow me to help grow The Goddard School within the unique franchise business model.

1851: What do you love about the industry?

Maple: One thing I admire about franchising is how it provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to go into business for themselves, not by themselves. Entrepreneurs join the system and immediately feel supported, knowing they are starting a business with a nationally-recognized brand and a built-in customer base. The franchise industry also allows prospective business owners to realize their potential with the support of a large organization behind them. A good franchise system helps entrepreneurs by providing best practices for running their businesses and the tools needed to be successful, such as employee retention and recruitment tactics, brand materials and marketing support, among others.

1851: What do you wish that you could change about the industry?

Maple: I wish I could change the idea that change is bad! As a leading early education franchise system, we need to balance stability and consistency with innovation and change in order to meet the evolving demands of both our franchisees and the families we serve. The changes in our business model, real estate approach, curriculum and our training and support practices help to keep our approach fresh and the business sustainably growing.

1851: What is the biggest challenge franchisors are currently facing in franchise development and what are you doing to overcome it?

Maple: Ensuring the right people are coming through your doors. In the franchising industry especially, it can be tempting to dive head first into any prospective franchisee who shows interest in joining the business. But for a system to truly succeed, you need to make sure the right franchisees are being awarded licenses—the ones who fully buy into the brand mission and path to success. These engaged franchisees become your best brand ambassadors for recruiting new prospects. At The Goddard School, we’ve adapted our business model to allow more flexibility for our current franchisees to become multi-unit owners through friends and family partnerships, satellite location options and more.

1851: What do you think the biggest trend in franchise development will be in 2020?

Maple: As more millennials trend toward living and working in metropolitan areas and mixed-use developments, I think we’ll begin to see more service-based franchises pop up in urban communities. We've already begun sourcing real estate in areas where millennial parents are opting to live with housing, employment and entertainment all in one place. This trend is great for prospective franchisees, as there are many untapped real-estate opportunities that are ripe for services like childcare.

1851: What makes a great franchisee?

Maple: A great franchisee is a determined entrepreneur interested in expanding a brand’s influence within their community. GSI’s success is measured by our large network of passionate, committed franchisees, and many of our most successful franchisees have gone on to open multiple locations. While not every new franchisee will have an extensive background in business management and/or early-childhood education, he or she will quickly find success by coming in with a determination to help the franchise grow and a willingness to follow the support path we’ve put in place.

1851: What's the No. 1 thing that sells franchises? 

Maple: Earning potential is always the top factor in attracting prospective franchisees, and they demand transparency into this area of any franchise system. The Goddard School is well-known in the franchise industry for offering a highly transparent Item 19 in our FDD. It provides a full breakdown of earnings and expenses by school, allowing for franchisees to get the most robust data sampling for income potential.