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Disruption in a “Crowded” Franchise Category

In the world of franchising, distinguishing your brand from the competition is critical. What is a brand to do in order to distinguish itself in a competitive marketplace? We asked some CFA members this question of how their franchise system “disrupts” in “crowded” franchise categories such as educational services and senior care. Here’s what Just Like Family and Mathnasium had to say:

Senior’s Services

Canada’s population is aging, and the baby boomer generation now makes up more than half of the senior demographic. According to Statistics Canada, on July 1, 2019, there were 6,592,611 Canadians aged 65 and over, with baby boomers making up the majority (51 per cent) of seniors.

Gary Prenevost, president of FranNet of Southern Ontario noted in a recent Franchise Canada article that the increased demand for senior services has led to significant interest from prospective franchisees. “We get more people asking about senior care than any other category. This is the number one category we get requests for and interest in, because of the sheer strength of the demographic of our aging population in the next 10-plus years.”

There are a wide range of franchise opportunities available when it comes to senior services, from transportation services and meal delivery to mobility systems and downsizing services. But the majority of senior services franchises can be found in home care.

One such franchise system is Just Like Family, which offers a complete range of home care services. Here’s how they distrupt in this “crowded” franchise category:

By Razvan Isacescu, President & CEO of Just Like Family Home Care

In an increasing world of competition (and don’t get me wrong, I think competition is great!) in the franchise field, some people might ask themselves, how will I choose the franchise that is right for me.

In a particular field like the one of senior care, when there are so many brands advertising they have the best franchise system, the best services, the best training, etc there are a few points anybody interested in a senior care franchise system should consider:

  1. First and foremost, because we all live in this beautiful country, you should consider choosing a Canadian brand. Your services will be provided to and by Canadians, so being part of a Canadian franchise system, which has been operating here for a long time and has a better understanding of the local market, will prove to be a huge advantage in operating your franchise.There are a lot of companies who start the franchising process after only a few years of operating in the field, so you should also make sure, before starting franchising, the company has also a proven track record in whatever Canadian market they have been operating as a private company;
  2. Costs involved – let’s be honest, everybody likes to save some money, so consider what is the franchise fee that you will be charged (being a non-refundable one you should be careful before signing off the cheque!), what are the royalty fees, is the franchisor giving any other signing offer or discount (maybe a certain period of free royalties or a tier structure of royalties, that decrease while your sales increase).It will prove to be a huge financial advantage for you instead of paying a large upfront franchise fee or immediate royalty fees, to have some money that stay in your bank account and you can reinvest in your business. Also, how long is the franchise agreement for, how much and how easy would be to renew it, because if you have to renew every three or five years and having to pay a large renewal fee, that will definitely affect the day to day operations of your business.
  3. The level of support you will receive from the franchisor – how many levels of management you have to go through to reach someone that actually has been working in this field and can really provide you with the guidance and support you will need to grow your company.How hard will it be to reach your consultant or advisor? is the company having a 24/7 line with a real person answering? Because in our field, when the home care services are provided to seniors 24/7, you might need some help from someone at any time of day or night.
  4. In the senior care field, where currently there are no legal requirements to operate a home care franchise, does the franchise system has rigorous policies and procedures, that will help you avoid misunderstandings, deal with emergencies, help you recruit reliable and professional employees and will convince your potential clients their loved ones will be safe, happy and treated just like their own family member;
  5. And last but not least, trust your gut; when you talk to different companies’ representatives, how comfortable did you feel talking to them initially, how fast are they answering your calls or emails, is your consultant or advisor based in Canada or another country; because both the franchisor and you as a franchisee, would like to be in a long-term business relationship and easy and comfortable communication is extremely important.

If you managed to put a check mark beside all (or most of) the points above, rest assured you are in the right hands and your company will have the success both you and your franchisor desire to have.

Children’s Products & Services

There’s no shortage of classes, programs, and services that parents can turn to for help in fostering growth in their little ones.

Within the children’s products & services category, Prenevost says the big demand is for early childhood education (ECE) and daycare, and that this is going to continue going forward. Prenevost also notes a shift toward more supplemental education franchises on the market.

“We’re seeing a market shift; where parents used to go to traditional tutoring companies only, now the tutoring companies are competing with the supplemental education programs for parents’ mind share. We’re quite excited about this growth in supplemental education,” says Prenevost.

For franchisees looking to invest in this category, Prenevost notes the importance of catering to parents. “They have to understand what the time availability is for the parent to bring the child to and from the program. It’s hyper-competitive – it’s competing with all other aspects of the person’s life, and it’s competing with all of the other programs on the marketplace. People need to understand how the franchisor is helping them attract and retain the customer,” he explains.

Let’s take a closer look at Mathnasium Learning Centres and how that franchise uses technology to disrupt their franchie category:

By Joanne Helperin – Mathnasium Learning Centres, LLC 

In our digital world, it’s no longer optional for franchisors to consider how their product or service can leverage technology to improve operational and marketing systems. Perhaps more important, franchisors should look to technology to diversify their product line, knowing that future customers will require the ability to interact digitally. In so doing, they can not only improve existing internal systems, they can potentially disrupt their market.

A case in point: Mathnasium Learning Centers has taught mathematics to students in grades 2-12 since 2002 and now has more than 1,000 locations on five continents. The Mathnasium Method™ education model requires live, face-to-face interaction between a student and an instructor, working with an individualized learning plan, to ensure that each student gains true math comprehension. Typically, students come into their local learning center 2-3 times per week.

The advent of online instruction over the last decade brought many new entrants into the rapidly growing private tutoring market. Typically, these new players deliver services in a “one-to-many” format or through pre-recorded videos. The overhead costs and barriers to entry for these players was quite low by comparison. Mathnasium remained fully committed to the gold standard of live instruction using a customized curriculum but needed a way to address this new challenge.

In 2017, the company began developing Mathnasium@home, a service that provides exactly the same live instruction, but over the internet. This would allow a student to engage in live learning sessions from home, on vacation, or from anywhere with a connected computer. The company knew this flexibility would especially appeal to busy families who could not bring their child into our learning center on a regular basis. It would also allow families who live too far from a local center to become Mathnasium customers for the first time in the company’s 18-year history.

After a successful pilot of the @home service with more than 1,000 students, the company planned for a full rollout to its franchisees over the course of 2020. But the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of local schools dramatically increased the demand for at-home learning. In response, Mathnasium accelerated its rollout in March, making @home available in Canada, the U.S. and several other countries. This allowed our franchisees to keep their currently enrolled students learning remotely while centers are temporarily shuttered, while offering new customers a convenient entry into the Mathnasium system. Once the COVID-19 risk abates, families can to remain in the @home program or choose an easy transition to their local learning center.

Similar to how grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail stores now have both online and offline channels, @home is a now secondary revenue channel for our franchisees.

Meeting customers where they are provides brands with a distinct advantage and has enormous potential to disrupt a market. Today’s franchisors will benefit from broadening their view of technology, using it to leverage existing intellectual assets to create new products or services to meet customer needs.

Joanne Helperin is the marketing communications manager for Mathnasium Learning Centers, LLC.