Making the decision to buy a franchise is not an easy one. Prospective franchisees typically do research on many brands before deciding where to invest their hard-earned money. A key driver of the franchise buying process is the level of support provided by a brand to its new franchisees. For Huntington Learning Center, a 300+-unit, fast-growing tutoring franchise, franchisee support is a major priority, and the brand has a team of 10 franchise business coaches (FBCs) that specialize in supporting franchisees during different stages of the business.
Once a franchisee joins the system, the operations department assigns an FBC for that franchisee to work exclusively with, overseeing the entire opening process from the moment they sign the franchise agreement until the day they open the doors of their new business. This can include the construction process, outfitting their centers, understanding the marketing process and how they need to run their center.
During the first year of operation, the marketing team has monthly calls with new franchisees to be a resource on what they should be doing on a monthly basis.
“The role of the FBC is to be a connection for the franchisee from the corporate team, and to be the go-to person the franchisee would reach out to for anything they need,” said Marilena O’Neill, Vice President of Franchise Operations for Huntington Learning Center. “We give our franchisees direct access to different resources to help them get answers to specific problems during specific stages of their business life cycle. If the FBC isn’t able to address a specific issue, he or she can guide the franchisee to the exact person or department they need to get it resolved.”
After the center has opened, the franchisee is then assigned to work with a different FBC who specializes in working with new franchisees as soon as they open to make sure they get the additional support they need during the first few months of operation. After the initial opening period — which is between nine to 12 months, depending on need — franchisees then join their region and receive support from the regional FBC.
Huntington Learning Center also has an FBC who handles a small number of centers who need extra support, as well as an FBC who handles franchisees who have purchased an existing center, as the support needed to take over a center is different than buying and opening a new center.
“The FBCs also make sure that franchisees follow the Huntington Learning brand standards and understand how to implement all the systems that we have in place that we know work,” said O’Neill. “Our FBCs make sure franchisees know how to market their centers and help franchisees share best practices and what works well in their markets that can be replicated elsewhere. We have a very open door policy, and we make sure that if a franchisee has a great idea that works for them, we at corporate do a deep dive into how it was implemented, what triggered that success and make sure to implement across the entire company.”
To provide a forum for franchisees to share best practices, Huntington also provides ongoing training and hosts local area meetings twice a year, as well as regional meetings and the national franchise convention in October.
“We are committed to providing support to our franchisees whenever they need it, because that support extends to the children in our centers,” said O’Neill. “Our philosophy is ‘help the children and you will succeed,’ so as long the focus is on the children and follow the system and use the resources at their fingertips, our franchisees are set up to succeed.”