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Three Questions With Leaders: Sylvan’s Executive Team Members Sound Off
Three Questions With Leaders: Sylvan’s Executive Team Members Sound Off

CEO John McAuliffe, CTO Monica Nicolau and VP of Education Emily Levitt share just why Sylvan is an unparalleled brand in the supplemental education sector.

For the last 40 years, premier supplemental education brand Sylvan Learning has been paving the way for student success thanks to technology-driven classroom innovation, proven ACT/SAT test prep curricula, in-demand STEM courses and more.

So what makes Sylvan such a standout brand in the supplemental and enrichment education space? Three of Sylvan’s leaders—Chief Executive Officer John McAuliffe, Chief Technology Officer Monica Nicolau and Vice President of Education Emily Levitt—share their thoughts on everything from Sylvan’s proven model, why they’re excited to go to work each day and why now is exactly the right time to buy a Sylvan Learning Center.

What makes Sylvan Learning the dominant player in the supplemental education space?

“The fact that Sylvan has 40 years of proven success shows that we have a great brand name and grew such trust with our customers. Other brands can’t say that,” said Nicolau. “I also think that with the addition of our personalized tutoring technology, SylvanSync, student success can be proven even faster than before based on more granular data.”

Levitt further built on Nicolau’s focus on data-driven analysis.
“Because our programs are delivered through tech, we can pull a lot of data to judge how well our system and our students are doing. We constantly monitor academic quality across the system to drive really great results. None of our competitors can claim to do that,” said Levitt.

Levitt also echoed Nicolau’s endorsement of SylvanSync, saying: “We carefully match our plans to each child’s specific needs via our SylvanSync platform and we always put the teacher at the center of the plan. We have wonderful education technology, but we know that a child is never going to work as hard for a computer as they would for a teacher. That’s why we make sure our technology complements our focused instructional approach.”

McAuliffe also cited SylvanSync as a key differentiator.

“SylvanSync is our proprietary delivery technology; our students take an assessment, and then Sync translates the data from the assessment as well as student and parent goals to create an individualized learning program ordered up for each session,” McAuliffe explained. “The system delivers and adapts, and then delivers curricula tailored to the individual student’s needs.”

In addition to technology and data-driven methodology, Levitt also called out “Sylvan’s content and learning progression,” in which the brand has invested years of research, as well as a corporate-based, full-time education team.

“Not all supplemental education companies have any educators full-time on staff. The fact that we’re here every day for the centers, whenever they need us—and that we pay close attention every day—it really takes the education up to the next level,” said Levitt.

Levitt explained that other supplemental education providers will often hire a contractor to create the content, ultimately leaving franchisees with no in-house education support.

“Here, a given Sylvan center knows that they can pick up the phone and call us at anytime for help. We’ll spend an hour on the phone looking at academic record of the student in need and come up with a strategy,” Levitt said. “We’re not in our ivory tower; we work for students and their families, directly and persistently.”

McAuliffe didn’t mince words when speaking to Sylvan’s status as a dominant industry player.

“We have the best brand awareness in the business, period. And the reason is because we have a proven model—our products actually work,” McAuliffe said. “Our programs are individualized and adaptive, and our breadth of content is unlike anyone else’s, ranging from reading, math and writing to study skills, test prep and STEM.”

Finally, McAuliffe said, “Because we have a variable model, the opportunity for success is higher than for our competitors. Look at our upfront investment as compared to others, and then our revenue as compared to competitors’; you’ll see that we have the best model in comparison to our competition.”

Why is now a great time to buy a Sylvan Learning Center?

McAuliffe and Nicolau spoke to Sylvan’s continued investments in technology and operational infrastructure when asked why now is the optimum time to buy a Sylvan Learning Center.

“We have invested very heavily in the technology and we’re now seeing the benefits of that investment,” said McAuliffe. “In my mind, we’ve leap-frogged our competition in terms of ability. We’ve really broadened the breadth of content; we now have beginning reading and writing, we’ve added STEM content to our platform and broadened our math programs. So our investment in technology and our breadth of service are two key reasons why now is a great time to buy.”

Nicolau built on this point: “Speaking to this from my perspective as a technology leader, I would say that this is a great time to buy because it’s the easiest it’s ever been, from a tech infrastructure point of view, to set up a new center and to run it.”

Nicolau continued: “All of our applications for centers are cloud-based so owners can focus on delivering or core mission to students—it’s now more efficient to change and update to new requirements and to keep applications moving smoothly. Our owners are equipped for success.”

For Levitt, in addition to unparalleled technology, the people of Sylvan make the franchise opportunity second-to-none.

The staff we have in all departments is enthusiastic, supportive and engaged, so if you buy in now, you have a really wonderful group of people standing behind you,” explained Levitt.

Why are you passionate about Sylvan—What makes you excited to go to work each day?

“I am one of the many ‘boomerang people’ here at Sylvan,” explained Levitt. “I was with the brand for six years, then left briefly but came back. When I left, I immediately regretted it; the grass was not greener.”

When asked what made her want to return to Sylvan, Levitt was emphatic.

“This is the only place I have ever worked where the company doesn’t just claim to be mission-driven; they really live it,” Levitt said. “That’s true of the corporate office culture; of my co-workers; of the services we provide. Sylvan attracts some really special people who embody our mission.”

McAuliffe had similar reasons for endorsing Sylvan’s brand and offering.

We’re a mission-driven company through and through,” said McAuliffe. “We help children succeed academically because we know that education is key to success in life. We provide the bridge to success via education, especially for kids that are struggling because they’re not getting the individualized attention they need.”

McAuliffe shared that, every morning, he reads Sylvan’s consolidated feedback from parents, called the Voice of the Customer report.

“I read them in the morning on purpose to get energized for work. We make a difference in children’s lives every single day, and that’s an incredible feeling,” McAuliffe said.

The focus on living Sylvan’s mission is also the primary driving force for Nicolau.

“I believe in the power of education—education is the solution to the major problems in the world,” said Nicolau. “I get up every morning and come into work because I believe in our mission. Everything my team and I can do to make things more efficient and to help our center staff deliver better services, we do. That’s why we’re all here.”

Key Takeaways

  • Sylvan Learning enjoys myriad key differentiators including personalized tutoring technology, SylvanSync; data-driven methodology; an on-staff team of full-time editors; in-house support resources including Sylvan University; and a recurring revenue stream thanks to a yearly influx of newly school-age students.
  • Sylvan’s continued investment in technology and operational infrastructure make now the perfect time to buy a Sylvan Learning Center.
  • Sylvan offers not only a strong business opportunity, but a place for franchise owners to live out their values. Sylvan franchisees embody the brand’s mission to provide children a bridge to success through exceptional education, every day.

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