Best in Class Education Center
Preparing Students for a Lifetime of Learning
Business View Magazine profiles Best in Class Education Center, a franchisor of specialized and remedial learning centers, in Seattle, Washington.
“One thing we’ve seen with a lot of schools, today, is class spaces getting so large – there are 20 to 30 students in a classroom and many children really need extra help,” says Sharon Peterson, Franchise Director for Best in Class, a Seattle-based franchisor of specialized and remedial learning centers. “Whether they’re extremely gifted and have very lofty educational goals, or they’re very far behind and need help, we want to prepare them for a lifetime of learning. So, our mission is to help children across the United States by providing supplemental education, primarily focusing on mathematics and English.”
Originally founded in 1995, by Hao and Lisa Lam, who fled Vietnam’s communist government in the late 1980s, today, there are over 40 Best in Class franchises across the country – ten of which are owned by the Lams, with another 30 owned by other franchisees – 60 percent of whom are multiple owners. “Our franchisees come from diverse backgrounds,” says Peterson. “A lot of them come from the corporate world – information technology, marketing, and even sales. But all have a passion for education. They want to help children and make a difference in their communities. About 70 percent are husband and wife teams.”
Best in Class children also come from different backgrounds, Peterson explains, and with different educational needs. “When a child first comes to a Best in Class center, we give them an assessment to see where they’re at within our math and English enrichment classes. If they’re gifted and bored in school, we want to challenge them; if they’re really behind – maybe they have a learning disability – that’s when we would probably recommend private tutoring. We take every child’s needs into consideration.”
The company’s current client base is about 50 percent elementary school students; about 30 percent from middle school; and the remaining 20 percent are high school students. “We get to work with children from the time they’re four years old to the time they’re getting into their dream university,” Peterson states.
Peterson believes that the success of the Best in Class model can be attributed mostly to its curriculum. “That’s the reason that we’ve grown across the United States,” she claims. “A lot of our competitors have great marketing campaigns. We want to focus on the curriculum. We have a designated team that is constantly updating the curriculum because we want to stay ahead of the curve. And we have proprietary tools and resources, so that way, any time we make any kind of update to the curriculum, our franchisees have it at the click of a mouse. That’s a huge benefit for our franchisees and for our retail consumers because parents are always searching for the ‘next best thing.’”
While Best in Class is actively looking to award more franchises – it signed 11 deals for new franchise units in the first half of 2016, and is expecting to open another 12 by the end of the year – Peterson says the company is actually quite selective. “We don’t accept every candidate,” she avers. “Our exploration process is extremely thorough. One of the requirements that we have before we have someone sign on the dotted line is they must come out to Seattle to meet with our team. And then, our team and the client get to know each other quite well. And that way, we can be sure it will be a good fit. We want to make sure we share the same mission, the same values.”
In addition, before a franchisee even signs an agreement, the company does a very thorough marketing audit to make sure that the area is going to be viable for a Best in Class center. “Once they do sign a franchise agreement, we introduce them to our real estate team to find a great location. Once they have several locations in mind, a member of our team will fly out to meet with them to look at those potential sites. Most of our franchisees aren’t seasoned business professionals, so we hold their hand at every step of the way.”
While other education franchisors require their owners to teach at their location, Peterson says that it isn’t a requirement for Best in Class franchisees. “We work closely with our franchisees to help them find amazing teaching professionals from pre-K all the way up to 12th grade,” she says. “During our seven-day training in Seattle, we go over human resources so our franchisees know exactly where to go and find staff because parents want licensed and certified teaching professionals.”
While not a requirement, the company does encourage former and current educators to become Best in Class unit owners. “We launched a teacher incentive program back in November 2014,” Peterson explains. “It’s been a major win for our clients, as well as for Best in Class, because we get to partner with licensed child care and teaching professionals. We reduce their franchise fees for the first three locations they open and, in addition, we waive their royalties for the first three months. We’ve had ten franchisees take advantage of this program.”
Over the next several years, Peterson says that Best in Class will continue to focus on franchise development and support. “If you can’t support your existing client base and provide the best tools and resources to them, then you’re not doing your job as a franchisor,” she declares. “There’s someone in our corporate office seven days a week, so we are constantly supporting them, as well as evolving our curriculum. If somebody is looking for a business opportunity and they have a passion for education, we’d love to share more about Best in Class with them.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: Best in Class Education Center
WHAT: A franchisor of specialized and remedial learning centers
WHERE: Seattle, Washington