For Goddard Systems Inc., the Franchise’s Success is All About Relationships
For more than 30 years, Goddard Systems, Inc. (GSI), the franchisor of The Goddard School, has been synonymous with high-quality early childhood education. In 2019, Goddard reached a milestone in the brand’s history when the 500th Goddard School opened. Goddard Schools now serve more than 65,000 children across 36 states. By remaining nimble and adapting the business to market and demographic changes to meet the needs of parents and franchisees, GSI is poised to open another 200 Schools over the next five years.
As the leading early childhood education franchise system, The Goddard School maintains strong growth year-over-year. In the past five years, the average mature school EBITDA has grown more than 36 percent to $373,321. Mature Schools, which have been in operation for more than 18 months, have grown in monthly revenue year-over-year consecutively for the past 109 months, which is more than nine years of sustained prosperity.
GSI believes the secret to the brand’s success lies in the strength of its relationships.
The Goddard School brand has experienced consistent growth in predominately suburban areas, but as GSI plans for the next 200 Schools, it will also create opportunities in underserved markets by using several new strategies, including a location-first location model that helps GSI identify high-potential real estate sites before it awards a license to a franchisee. Additionally, GSI is helping franchisees source locations in cities, mixed-use retail spaces and corporate campuses, where millennial parents are increasingly opting to live, work and raise their children. Goddard Schools have recently opened at the District Wharf in Washington, D.C., and in Nationwide’s corporate headquarters at Grandview Yard in Columbus, OH.
The location-first development model is the result of decades-long relationships GSI built with top developers and real estate professionals across the U.S. These key relationships enable GSI and prospective franchisees to select prime real estate opportunities in affluent suburbs and highly trafficked metro centers to meet the lifestyle demands of modern families.
The strength of GSI’s developer relationships helped Jodi & Bill Straub, the franchisees of the 500th Goddard School in Bala Cynwyd, PA, to locate, secure and renovate a former schoolhouse in a population dense community with a high demand for childcare. The Straubs relied on GSI’s relationships with developers to help them capitalize on this second-generation property and gain access to a previously unserved market with a high demand.
Most individuals do not have experience with commercial lending or with government-backed loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Fortunately for new and current franchisees, GSI has deep relationships with some of the leading SBA lenders, who are already familiar with the franchise’s unique model and lending needs. By building these relationships, The Goddard School system has become an approved franchise concept for many national and local lenders, which may lead to more competitive terms and a more streamlined process for franchisees. FRANdata, a franchise market research and consulting firm specializing in performance analysis and benchmarking, determined that Goddard School franchisees’ SBA loans, that were analyzed over a 15-year period, have an extremely low failure rate of only 2.79%.
The strongest and most important relationships in the system are the relationships between GSI and its passionate network of franchisees. The franchisees’ support and satisfaction have driven the system’s consistent growth. GSI’s business structure is intended to support franchisees extensively, and nearly 200 corporate employees serve 500 Schools. GSI provides franchisees with pre-opening support during the real estate and construction phases, operational training before their Schools open and ongoing support in marketing, IT, operations and educational programming after their Schools open.
Additionally, GSI provides the franchisees with the tools they need to meet the Goddard health and safety standards and education standards by providing extensive online and in-person training courses and resources, and by offering in-school support from corporate representatives. Franchisees also benefit from The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board, which consists of leaders in a variety of fields related to early childhood education and care who help guide the evolution of the education framework. This framework helps franchisees improve their educational programs and train their faculty members.
GSI’s strong support model is often noted as a key differentiator by its franchisees. Don O’Brian, his daughter Anne Pope and his grandson Taylor Pope have been with The Goddard School since opening their first location in 2005. Today, the family operates three Schools, including the new District Wharf location in Washington, D.C., and recommends following the advice from GSI’s extensive support system. “When potential franchisees call us to inquire about our experience, we give them the same kind of response that we got when we were doing our due diligence. That is, at the end of the day, The Goddard School has been in the business for a very long time and has developed over the years a recipe for success,” said O’Brian. “GSI continues to tweak the system to make it work. The best advice we can give is to follow the recipe and trust it.”
The O’Brian-Pope family’s story is not unique to GSI. For the past two years, GSI has been ranked the top education franchise by Franchise Business Review, a third-party market research firm that provides rankings for franchise companies based solely on franchisee satisfaction and performance. At its core, GSI believes that its success can only be measured by the success of the Schools.
For entrepreneurs looking to secure their own franchised business, there is no better time to choose The Goddard School. The childcare industry is expected to reach 57 billion dollars by 2020. With 8.6 million children in working parent households, sustained low unemployment rates and increased disposable income, the demand for high-quality childcare is greater than ever. As more studies highlight the benefits children receive from early childhood education, parents are increasingly motivated to find high-quality childcare services that meet their children’s developmental needs.
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