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How to Succeed as a Multi-Unit Franchisee: Marissa Roh, Sylvan Learning

Roh is the owner of three Sylvan Learning locations. Here’s how she grew a successful franchise portfolio.

Marissa Roh is a multi-unit owner with Sylvan Learning*, the supplemental education brand with more than 750 points of presence, and a second-generation franchisee who took over center ownership for her mother-in-law after she passed away. Now, as the owner and executive director of three Sylvan Learning centers in Nebraska, Roh handles all growth and development for each of the locations, working directly with directors to help set budgets, goals and standards, as well as all the finance, accounting and advertising. 

When it comes to what makes her successful as a multi-unit owner, Roh points to three things: hiring the right people, setting clear expectations and communicating heavily.  

“I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses,” she said. “I can’t do everything so I hire qualified staff who I believe will be a good cultural fit, giving them the ability to do their jobs independently without micromanaging them. Having a positive and empowering culture is very important to me, so we take our time hiring and we work hard to remove staff who are not a good fit. Once staff is hired, we do our best to keep open communication and to stay in our lanes so that our centers can be efficient and productive. We’ve worked hard with our teams to create weekly one-on-one meetings, as well as weekly team meetings with structured agendas. We make sure to always include our wins in each meeting, but we also celebrate making mistakes because the only way to grow is to try new things. We learn so much more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.”  

Before expanding into multi-unit ownership, Roh says the key is making sure the first business is operating efficiently and effectively.

“You need to maximize your current business and have a solid foundation before expanding,” she explained. “Once you are ready, do your due diligence and research the markets you are looking to expand into. Make sure there is not just a need for the concept, but also an ability to serve that area. If you are a single owner operator, make sure you talk with other multi-unit franchise operators and ask them for advice. This business is full of franchisees who are willing to offer their advice and feedback, so take advantage of that.”  

For franchisors looking to find someone like Roh, more than anything, they need to show a passion for their mission.

“The ability to make a certain amount of money is not what would entice me to take a look at a franchise,” she said. “It’s what the business can do for people and how committed the company is to their mission. If you were trying to get someone like me, you need to have genuinely authentic people on the team who believe with all their heart in what they are selling.” 

In addition, Roh notes most people choose the franchising route because it is easier than starting something from scratch. That means franchisors need to show prospects there is a proven plan laid out for them to succeed. 

“Some of the things  I love about Sylvan’s corporate team is how much they care and how much they want franchisees to succeed — I can always get the help and support I need quickly,” she said. “I love having the hard work done for me with step-by-step instructions on how to open up a new center. I like that there is structured marketing and training so I don’t have to create it all myself.” 

Also, Roh says creating a community of franchisees is very important and needs to be nurtured by the franchisor. “Starting a business is hard, so being able to not feel like you are alone is very attractive to someone like me,” said Roh. “I don’t know how I would have managed these last eight and a half years without my fellow franchisees — Sylvan has one of the best communities I’ve ever been a part of!” 

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