Richard S. Weissman, President, The Learning Experience®
During the most recent economic downturn, I learned that tough times provide unparalleled opportunities for companies to grow, and learned lessons that can catapult success in any business during any economic climate. Utilizing this information, I was able to ensure the growth of my national early childhood education franchise, The Learning Experience® (TLE®), and produce a 410% YOY, with a 19.3% increase in annual growth rates in revenue just last year.
By building a business on strong fundamentals and implementing the following four principles, anyone can tap into their company’s full potential:
1. Set clear goals
It is important to always believe in your brand and not allow outside forces to deviate yourself from your goal(s). One of the worst things an entrepreneur can do during an uncertain economy is to take their foot off the accelerator – don’t focus on the negatives, keep a positive mind-set and stay your course.
Convey your belief and confidence in your brand to your stakeholders, allowing them to take ownership of that belief. Prior to the recession, many CEOs were not connected to their employees, but the recession has taught me to keep a spirit of optimism within the walls of my company, encouraging my employees to believe in their brand.
2. Reinvest in your business
Don’t cut costs, just spend smarter. As a CEO and entrepreneur, always be mindful of your cash flow in all economies. It is important to understand that tough times are not the only time to “watch the pennies,” but rather the best time to seize market share.
At TLE®, we reinvested in our infrastructure and human capital during the downward trending economy, thus increasing productivity. Training the leaders throughout your enterprise creates a synergistic environment and company culture that will allow the business to improve.
3. Take the lead
To be a good leader, you must lead by example. Responding well to both successes and failures is imperative to the growth of a business. It is important to realize that mistakes happen and how you deal with them is just as important.
Always maintain an entrepreneurial mindset to drive innovation, company culture, brand initiatives, and maximize the use of resources wisely. At TLE®, 30 percent of our Centers are company-owned, while the remaining 70 percent are completely owned and operated by franchisees. This corporately-owned/owner-operated model allows us to test out new practices, technology and systems at our corporately owned Centers before releasing them to our franchisees. This ensures that the best practices are being used throughout the entire company.
4. Maintain healthy relationships
It is crucial to maintain strong relationships internally, as well as externally in a company. At TLE® we have an “open-door” policy, ensuring that our employees know that no concern or question is too little to require our attention. After all, a company’s greatest asset is often its employees, so the preservation of a healthy management-employee relationship is a key component to the success of a business.
During the recession, our management team wanted all TLE® centers to see executive management personally when delivering a message. We partnered with a technology company to design an on-demand communication and video conferencing system. The system proved effective during trainings and weekly franchisee calls, and we were able to visually show our partners and employees that our confidence as leaders was unwavering.
This “recession-resistant” model holds true to this day. TLE® remains one of the few childcare operators to show growth in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, with higher growth rates expected for 2014.
Business models should never be cyclical and hard times helped me discover those core business requirements that helped TLE® avoid impact from the recession and what has fueled my business forward today and beyond.
About the Author
Richard S. Weissman is President of The Learning Experience® (TLE®), one of the country’s fastest growing early learning academies for children 6 weeks to 5 years old. By motivating people and creating lasting business concepts, Weissman has lead TLE® to achieve rapid growth despite economic and credit market tightness. As of February 2014, TLE® has 207 system-wide centers including 126 operating centers (107 franchised and 19 Company-owned) and 81 centers in various forms of development.