Now in its 40th year, Huntington Learning Center has a lot to celebrate. The top tutoring and test prep franchise, which offers individualized instruction for children from kindergarten to Grade 12 on basic skills and provides test preparation for the standardized SAT and ACT tests, is continuing to thrive. Not only does the average Huntington franchisee earn over 63% more than its closest competitor, Huntington also climbed to #63 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500™ this year (it was #198 last year). On top of that, franchisee satisfaction with Huntington appears to be high, as Franchise Business Review named Huntington a top 50 franchise based on franchisee satisfaction and a top 50 franchise for women.
However, all the revenue and awards come second to the real measure of success for the company and that is watching students who are struggling in school suddenly rise to the top of their class because of the help they receive from Huntington Learning Center.
Eileen and Ray Huntington started Huntington Learning Center in 1977 when tutoring centers did not yet exist. Prior to starting the business, Eileen Huntington was teaching at the high school level and she regularly saw students who couldn’t keep up in school. Ray, who has a PhD in statistics, was employed in the business sector as a business analyst for A T &T. The couple realized they were in the perfect position to help these kids, as well as children and families all across the country.
“Our mission is to give every student the best education possible,” says Eileen Huntington, co-founder and CEO of the family-owned and operated business. “We change kids’ lives every day. It’s extremely rewarding. When I see the excitement on the faces of our students when they realize they can do it – there is no greater reward.”
The Huntington Approach
Using Huntington’s 4-step diagnostic prescriptive approach, the learning center analyzes a student based on in-house testing and then uses its proprietary software to develop an individualized learning program for the child so they can be successful in school.
“That’s one of the reasons for our success,” Huntington explained. “As a franchisee, you do not need to be an educator to run this business.”
Once the learning center has the child’s diagnostic test results, the software automatically creates the learning program for the child from over 700 pieces of curriculum it has developed.
The documented student results have been profound. On average, Huntington students increase over a grade levels each in reading and math over a three-month period.
“We don’t just tutor for tomorrow’s test,” Huntington explains. “We give students the skills, motivation and confidence to succeed.”
College test prep results are equally impressive. Average SAT scores increase 200 points after a two-and-a-half month program, while ACT scores increase an average of four points.
“College admission today is extremely competitive,” Huntington noted. “You wouldn’t have your child go out and start driving a car without driving instruction. Why have your child sit down and take these tests without preparation?”
Students who perform their test preparation with Huntington Learning Center also receive millions of dollars in scholarships, which is another source of pride for the company.
Franchisee Fit and Franchisor Support
The New Jersey-based company started franchising in 1985 to take the concept to the rest of the country and currently has 300 locations in 39 states nationwide.
Huntington Learning Center looks for franchisees who want to be involved in their community, and want to be active participants in their franchise, Darlene Viering, vice-president of sales noted. Potential franchisees have to hold at least a Bachelor’s Degree and have to be comfortable going into schools and talking to educators and also have to be comfortable marketing the business.
They also need to have a passion for kids and education, although no previous education experience is required. “Our franchisees want a business that is both personally and financially rewarding,” Viering said. “Many of them tell us that joining Huntington was the best decision they ever made.”
Much like it does for students, Huntington Learning Center focuses on education for its franchisees, starting with four weeks of initial training at the company’s corporate headquarters in New York. They will also spend time working in one of the company’s 35 corporate-run learning centers in the greater New York area. The franchise also provides access to its online training system, which is available at all times, plus they provide training in the field multiple times per year.
But training is only one part of a multi-pronged support system that helps ensure franchisee success. A national call center answers all incoming calls from parents making their initial inquiries and funnels those calls to the appropriate franchisee. To help franchisees with the initial meeting with parents, the company provides training to them in the form of a team of conference coaches that coach them in how to present Huntington Learning Center to parents.
Franchisees also have constant access to the company’s franchise business consultant team, who visit the franchisees frequently.
If a qualified franchisee needs help getting started, Huntington Learning Center also offers in-house financing for them. They can borrow up to $100,000 directly from the company.
Considering the initial investment range for opening a Huntington Learning Center is from $110,000 to $225,000, Viering noted, this gives franchisees the opportunity to borrow a large portion of the initial investment if required.
On top of all that, the franchise also provides customized marketing materials.
“Our franchisees don’t have to create anything from scratch,” Viering said. “The proven system is in place – they just need to follow it to be successful.”
When helping a franchisee open a learning center, the company focuses on controlling the variable costs to keep them as low as possible. This means a franchisee doesn’t need that many new students per month to remain profitable.
One of the most important elements of support for franchisees is Huntington Learning Center’s seasoned management team, who have an average tenure of 15 years.
With 40 years under its belt, Huntington is firmly committed to continued growth. While the franchise already has a large footprint in the country, it has spots available nationwide.
Huntington also prides itself on being a family-owned and operated business. “Now, the second generation is in the business,” co-founder Eileen Huntington said during a recent interview. “Our daughter Anne is very involved and committed to carrying on our mission. Many of our franchisees run their franchises as a family business and they’re being passed down to the second generation. When people buy a franchise, they bring their adult children into the business. We’re very excited about that.”
With the next generation taking a leadership role, Huntington Learning Center will be around for a long time helping students prepare for college and get a boost to their education as well as helping the next generation of entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership.