Success Requires Grit and a Laser Focus on Customer Service, Franchisee Josh Iverson Says
Josh Iverson is now in his third career, this one as a multi-unit Huntington Learning Center franchisee. Perhaps surprisingly, his earlier jobs had nothing to do with education. Iverson previously worked as a structural engineer for five years before becoming a civil litigation lawyer for more than six years. Today he owns five successful Huntington Learning Center locations in Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa.
Although Iverson considered other investments more akin to his law and construction background, he went with his heart in choosing Huntington Learning Center. “My family had previous experience with Huntington because my niece attended, and my mother personally saw the impact the program had on kids. Personally, I saw Huntington works. Huntington has the best platform to reach each student individually and to be successful with them, so that made it an easy choice. I chose Huntington because of how soul-enriching I knew it would be to create the right path not only for myself but for the students.”
Now as a Huntington Franchisee
After three years as a Huntington franchisee, Iverson admits that such a major career change isn’t for the faint of heart. “It requires a jump, so make sure your financial ducks are in a row. Be brave, because a lot of this business is investing in marketing and getting that first student in the door. It is not a linear path. Once the student is in, they have to be treated like they are the best student in the world as they are your reference. Most importantly, bring some grit to the equation.”
He summons that grit daily. “I am probably spending 60-plus hours a week managing the business because I am focusing heavily on excellence of service. This requires a detailed top-down approach to reinforce how dedicated we are to our students. The goal is to work under 40 hours a week, but our locations require a lot of effort at the moment.”
Every day is a different adventure, Iverson says. “I wear a lot of hats such as canvassing for parents and building relationships with them at meetings. I am always on Zoom and the phone with my teams, so they are aligned with providing the best service possible. I spend time with tutors, so everyone knows what kind of service to provide. I create monthly action plans to stay on track. I am at the Blaine [Minn.] center physically, but I plan to spend more time at centers other than Blaine. Overall, I spend 40% of my time strategizing for the future and 60% on day-to-day operations. I spend a lot of time hiring and getting the right people to continue an excellent level of service.”
Customer service is the “first and foremost” priority. A franchisee also needs to “be able to understand each service and provide a level of service no one else can meet. You should have a tireless drive for excellence. With top-notch customer service, everything falls into place. Get to know how to get people through the door, but then retain them. Everything comes down to grit and seeing the path to make this successful and working that path until you get there. Have resolve and determination to keep you going, and eventually all the pieces will fall together.”
Challenges, Rewards and the Future
The biggest challenge was entering a new field “without a guaranteed salary from the start. You realize that everything depends on you, and you become your own safety net. It’s one thing to know how your career should go and another to actually execute it. The business relies on me making good decisions.”
And the reward factor? “The best part of being a franchise owner at Huntington Learning Center has been taking a thought and bringing it into fruition and the holistic feeling of being able to make a difference in the lives of our students. I was able to decide and define my own career path with Huntington and have a more fulfilling purpose than my previous career paths.”
Iverson has Huntington Learning Centers in Blaine, Stillwater and Woodbury, Minn., and one location each in Lake of the Hills, Ill., and in West Des Moines, Iowa. He manages about 75 employees, with each center employing between 10 and 15 people and additional employees outside the centers to handle tasks such as marketing. “We are working to get our operations at each location as strong as possible and to its best potential to benefit our students. We focus our efforts on making sure we get into the communities and schools to deliver top service to students and families. By doing so, we are continuously seeing growth.”
Right now, Iverson has no plans to add to his Huntington empire… but never say never. “I take it one step at a time. Running five centers feels like the right size at the moment. I want to get my centers to run at their best efficiency and hit their maximum profit. My goal is to get the five centers to run on their own and then look into what markets have the opportunity to grow in our regional space. As opportunity grows, I may look forward but without jeopardizing what we currently have.”
The Huntington Learning Center offers franchise opportunities around the United States. The brand was founded in 1977 and has about 300 locations in 40 states coast to coast. As an education enrichment business, it is recession-resistant. Among many accolades for the franchise, Huntington Learning Center ranked 104th in Entrepreneur magazine’s respected 2023 Franchise 500 ratings. For details about the franchise, visit https://huntingtonfranchise.com/.