The long-term success of many franchise owners is predicated by the tools with which they are supplied. Buying into a franchise means signing up for a specific system; with dedication and hard work, financial and professional rewards follow. Getting new franchisees from their grand opening to celebrating their 10th anniversary takes corporate investment into a business model that supports those operating within it at the unit level, and no one knows this better than Sylvan Learning.
Even now with a franchise system of more than 750 points of presence—many of which are owned by franchisees who have spent decades with the brand in various capacities—Sylvan Learning continues to redefine what it means to truly support franchisees.
Franchisee-turned-corporate team member Susan Valverde is Sylvan’s Chief Franchise Operations Officer. Having spent 15 years as a member of the brand’s franchise system, Valverde has unique insight into center-level operations that she’s been able to draw upon in her current role guiding the brand’s strategic approach to franchisee support. Valverde’s belief that a system is only as strong as the franchisees within it is apparent in the way she’s assembled her team—every member has worked in a Sylvan center at some level.
“I feel fortunate to have had that experience as a Sylvan franchisee—it serves my role very well,” she said. “I can relate because I’ve been in their shoes, and every single person on my team has worked in a center. That’s something not every company can say; having run the business from the front line shapes our perspective. I wouldn't change it for anything because it’s what keeps us focused on reality: what the customer wants, what really works operationally and ways we can improve.”
That relatability serves as a strong connection point between the corporate team and those that make up its franchise system, creating an environment where concerns are voiced, opinions are heard and support evolves, as a result.
Terry Wettig, a franchisee who opened his Sylvan Learning in Prattville, Alabama in March 2019, said the support he and his wife and business partner, Carol, received from the moment they began interacting with the brand has been authentic and comprehensive.
“We were welcomed with open arms and with genuine interest—as new franchisees and as people, too,” Wettig said. “Through the recruitment process, Discovery Day, our opening and beyond, we have been able to interact with other franchisees and with corporate team members who not only address our interests and concerns, but offer practical advice as well.”
Regular access to other members of the franchise system
Sylvan recognizes both the gravity of the decision to go into business for oneself and the challenges new entrepreneurs face. To help guide individuals through the endeavor, Sylvan provides franchisees with the chance to connect with other franchisees to share best practices before their centers ever open, a dedicated Franchise Business Consultant who they can lean on for operational insights and real-time access to the Sylvan Support Center for any immediate needs once they are up and running.
“We relied heavily on the training provided by the Sylvan system, however, I think the most important part of our learning process was interacting with other franchisees—both in person and over the phone,” Wettig said. “We received invaluable insight by having the ability to be on-site at several locations. The staff at each of these centers provided sage advice and practical recommendations based on their own experiences, allowing us to take this information and mold it into our own operation.”
Convenient, consistent training opportunities
Another strong suit of Sylvan, Valverde noted, is its boots-on-the-ground approach.
“[I can say] from both my own personal experience and from working with franchisees in this role for four years, what Sylvan does really well is spend time in the field. We learn from the staff there. Our training, operations and education teams are constantly in centers. The time my staff and I have spent in the business has informed the direction our new training tools have taken and helped improve Sylvan’s overall quality of support.”
Sylvan also understands that it’s not always feasible for franchisees to get their entire teams to an annual conference, so instead of waiting for a once-a-year happening to share best practices, the brand holds regular regional meetings throughout the year where franchisees can conveniently engage their entire teams. These constant connection points help Sylvan maintain a pulse on what franchisees are experiencing, which in turn allows the brand to proactively problem solve.
“We support our system in a unique way: we listen to their needs, adapt regionally, and most importantly, acknowledge at all times they are the front line of the brand and that is where the best ideas bubble up from,” Valverde said. “It’s from here that we learn more about the things that we need to change to meet consumer needs and wants.”
Real-time assistance from Franchise Business Consultants and the Sylvan Support Center
This approach has lent itself to immediate success for new franchisees like Wettig, who pointed specifically to the Sylvan Support Center as a crucial difference maker in his first few months of operation.
“The ongoing support we received and continue to receive runs the gamut, from the almost daily calls with our Franchise Business Consultant to one-on-one sessions with corporate team members,” Wettig said. “Yet perhaps the most valuable support we have received since our opening is from the men and women at the Sylvan Support Center. These folks are virtual lifesavers in being able to answer important questions and perform on-the-spot troubleshooting and have helped save the day more than once. These professionals, in my opinion, are the behind-the-scenes shining stars that help keep things running smooth.”
A commitment to putting franchisees first
Anyone choosing a career in the field of education does so due to a passion for helping others. It’s clear, then, due to the level of care Sylvan puts into creating the tools for franchisees to succeed, this passion manifests in the back end of the business, as well.
To this end, Valverde was emphatic: “Our franchisees are our brand; without them, we have nothing. The place we start and where everything is grounded in is listening to franchisees and modifying to meet their needs. A brand is more than its logo and tagline—at the end of the day, the people delivering on the promise to the consumer are the brand. We want to make sure we’re listening to [our franchisees] and their opinions on how to make things better.”
Startup costs for a Sylvan Learning franchise range from $68,680 to $159,085, including a franchise fee is $24,000. For more information about franchising with Sylvan Learning, please click here.
Sylvan Learning is uniquely qualified to offer unmatched support to its franchise system due to the extensive center-level experience each and every member of its Franchise Operations team possesses.
Sylvan franchisees benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from the moment they engage with the brand that carries all the way through the opening process and continues in a regular cadence once their center is open.
In addition to a network of existing franchisees from which to learn and share best practices, new Sylvan franchisees have real-time access to a dedicated Franchise Business Consultant who they can lean on for operational insights and the Sylvan Support Center for any immediate needs once they are up and running.
Sylvan corporate team members regularly spend time in centers communicating with employees and franchisees in order to understand and find opportunity in the unique challenges they face. The brand also holds regional training sessions on a consistent basis to facilitate the sharing of new tools and best practices.