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How to Succeed as a Multi-Unit Franchisee: Sarah Miller, Sylvan Learning

Miller is the owner of 12 Sylvan Learning locations. Here’s how she grew a successful franchise portfolio.

Sarah Miller has been with Sylvan Learning*, the supplemental education brand with over 750 points of presence, for over a decade. Miller, along with her business partner Kent Kolbow, own 12 Sylvan Learning centers across Indiana and Florida. Over the past ten years, Miller has become an important part of the Sylvan Learning franchise family and recently won an award highlighting the brand’s top franchisees in the nation. 

When it comes to what makes her such a successful multi-unit franchise owner, Miller narrows it down to one word: consistency. “As multi-unit franchise owners, the main thing that allows us to succeed across multiple locations is being consistent,” she said. “It is not only up to the owner to maintain consistency of service among all locations, but they also need a strong leadership team to ensure  the consistency can continue.”

For franchisees interested in growing their portfolio, Miller notes this kind of support infrastructure is essential, and prospects need to do their due diligence to ensure the brand will offer assistance in all areas of the business. 

“Oftentimes, the financial aspect is where franchisees go to make sure they have that foundation to grow, but even more important is the need for hands-on support,” said Miller. “This includes a staff to help you grow and a leadership team to ensure you can replicate the same quality level at each location.”

During the due diligence process, Miller says she and Kolbow have learned what to look for over the years. Now, when vetting a new potential location, Miller says their research is very extensive.

“We look into the back-end side of things, but we also make sure everything is good on the front-end as well,” said Miller. “When we look at a new location, we check out the financials, meet with the staff that are currently running the operation and we ensure it meets our consistent brand standard.”

If franchisors are looking for someone like her, Miller says there are several factors brands need to excite her, but the key is all about support. Whether it be assistance with marketing, operations, training, staffing, technology or anything else, Miller says it is about creating a culture of support

“Franchisors always need to make sure they support the same culture that the franchisee is looking for,” she said. “As a franchisee, I am looking for a franchisor that is going to be involved, supportive and isn’t just looking for my faults and flaws.” 

Lastly, Miller says if a franchisor wants to find a franchisee that will help grow the brand through multi-unit ownership, they will need to provide the infrastructure necessary for scalability. This includes learning from successful franchise owners and adapting the business model based on feedback in the field.

“If brands want to encourage multi-unit growth, they need to embrace best practices that are working well on the ground and share them throughout the entire franchise community,” said Miller.

Watch the full interview above, or click here to watch it on YouTube.

To check out more multi-unit franchisee success stories, click here.

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