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Sylvan's Leadership Team Discusses What Makes Franchisees Win

Catching up with the brand’s CEO, CMO and Chief Franchise Operations Officer to find out what owners can do to thrive within the supplemental and enrichment education franchise’s system.

By Emily ClouseStaff Writer
SPONSOREDUpdated 4:16PM 08/24/20

For 40 years, Sylvan Learning has set the pace for the supplemental and enrichment education industry through a breadth of tutoring and after-school programs, innovative technology and a results-driven approach to personalized learning. 

By nature, Sylvan Learning franchisees are exceptionally passionate individuals who are dedicated to improving students’ learning outcomes in their communities. We caught up with Sylvan Learning’s leadership team to find out what Sylvan owners can do to make their centers thrive—all with the end goal of helping more students achieve their full potential.

“Sylvan franchisees focus on bringing quality academics to their communities. Throughout the process, they continue to get inspired by the mission-driven organization,”  said Susan Valverde, Chief Franchise Operations Officer. “Owning a Sylvan center allows them to feel like they are adding true value to the world, not just contributing to some nameless corporation.”

Valverde added that the most successful franchisees personally interact with every single parent in their territory. “They introduce themselves and ask about that family’s journey through the local school system,” she said. “They want to celebrate each of their Sylvan student’s wins—whether that’s learning to read, improving their SAT/ACT test score, or gaining admission to the college of their dreams.”

Amy Przywara, Chief Marketing Officer, echoed the importance of being active and engaged locally. This visibility elevates Sylvan as a touchstone in the community while marketing the local center’s services. “It’s about being authentic and building genuine relationships. Eventually, people will recognize the franchisee as the local point person for Sylvan. They’ll start calling the person who’s always wearing a Sylvan shirt for advice. Our franchisees truly become part of the community as a business owner.”

While not all Sylvan franchisees have previous experience in marketing or sales, successful owners learn to network by inquiring about and addressing the community’s needs. “It’s about having real conversations with parents and getting to know them. What are they interested in and working on that Sylvan can help with? Sylvan can host a fundraiser for the PTA, an after-school robotics class, or sponsor their kids’ sports team. Most of those opportunities come out of having organic conversations as opposed to selling someone something,” said Przywara. “Sylvan becomes part of who franchisees are. Then, they can simply talk authentically about themselves and what they do.”

In addition to embracing a leadership role within the community, Valverde said that winning franchisees are excellent leaders within their local centers. “Our franchisees empower their staff. They value the work their team members are doing on the front lines with students on a daily basis. Our franchisees remove roadblocks and provide ample resources so that their centers can deliver on the brand promise.”

While at least one franchise partner must work with Sylvan full-time, franchisees don’t necessarily need to serve as their center’s director. That being said, many choose to, as it is a meaningful way to engage with the business. “Selecting the right center director is probably the most important decision owners will make,” said CEO John McAuliffe. “Our best franchisees successfully monitor and lead their teams, drive customer satisfaction and prudently manage the finances of the center.”

Successful Sylvan owners also engage with each other. Sylvan franchisees are like-minded individuals all across the country and globe that are always available to workshop ideas, share experiences and learn from each other. These lifelong relationships tend to stick. “I’ll often see people who attended Sylvan 101 training together 20 years ago sitting together at the latest annual conference,” said Valverde.

Sylvan Learning owners deeply value this supportive franchise system. From the operations manual to ongoing training to best practices provided throughout their tenure, great franchisees take advantage of those resources at every chance.

“Successful franchisees take every opportunity to continuously engage, such as regional meetings both in-person and through conference calls,” said Valverde. “They attend the annual conference and quarterly town hall calls with the executive team. They care about improving their business and staying up-to-date.”

Przywara said that great franchisees execute at least three marketing initiatives consistently every month. This helps them get accustomed to committing and following through so that advertising their centers is a continuous priority. “It’s going out and partnering with another neighborhood businesses, coming up with a new promotion, tabling at community events and getting the brand name out there,” she said. “We want franchisees who take on the role of being their own local marketer while our corporate team does the rest. If someone really gets that, they'll be successful as a franchisee with us.”

Valverde said that franchise prospects should feel committed to making their business the best it can possibly be. Winning owners want to work with a professional organization that has the same values that they do while giving them a robust framework for success. “Although new franchisees have to put in the elbow grease and utilize their skill sets and connections, they start at a faster speed within a more developed framework than they would have if they were starting an independent learning center from scratch,” she said.

Finally, McAuliffe noted a pair of winning franchisees to illustrate the qualities and actions that set Sylvan owners up to thrive. “Kent Kolbow and Sarah Miller have a true passion for the business—even as a multi-unit owner, Kent still teaches at one of his centers,” he said. “They have a positive and fun attitude, pay close attention to the financial aspects, are committed to building and leading a team, and constantly focus on customer satisfaction.”

At the end of the day, while a passion for helping children succeed is certainly a key jumping off point for all owners, it’s also what motivates winning franchisees to continue giving their all to their businesses.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sylvan Learning franchisees feel like they are adding true value to the world, not just contributing to some nameless corporation.
  • Successful Sylvan franchisees are very active and engaged with their local community. This visibility elevates Sylvan as a touchstone in the community while marketing the center’s services.
  • While not all Sylvan franchisees have previous experience in marketing or sales, successful owners learn to network by inquiring about and addressing the community’s needs.
  • Sylvan franchisees are great leaders who empower their staff and provide all the resources teachers need to help students realize academic success.
  • Sylvan franchisees take advantage of the resources provided by the Sylvan system at every chance, from the operations manual to ongoing training and best practices to speaking with each other.
  • Great franchisees plan and execute three local marketing initiatives a month, such as flyering neighborhood businesses, coming up with a new promotion or tabling at a community event.
  • Franchisees feel committed to making their Sylvan Learning business the best it can possibly be.

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