Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
When it comes to math, American students' standardized testing scores look downright bleak compared to those of their peers in countries as large as Germany and Canada and as small as Liechtenstein and Denmark. That impression extends to domestic views of U.S. math education: A Pew Research study this year reported that only 29 percent of Americans rated this country's K-12 education in math (and STEM overall) as above average. America's gap in math is the one tutoring company Mathnasium seeks to fill, and the reason why Florida-based franchisee Mo Khalil signed on four-plus years ago. The surrounding community concurred: Khalil's first learning center enrolled so many students its first 90 days that it outgrew its space -- and today Khalil has expanded to nine learning centers.
Name: Mo Khalil
Franchise owned: Mathnasium; nine locations in Florida
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have owned Mathnasium franchises for four-and-a-half years. Prior to Mathnasium, I owned Wireless Zone franchises for seven years.
The right franchise will provide business models, systems, reputation and success guidelines that are proven. It will also provide training and ongoing support that help you navigate the challenges of starting your own business from the ground up. If you follow the proven business model and do a great job in all the different areas of focus, your chances of success are dramatically improved.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Prior to franchising I worked for Ricoh and Canon Business Solutions in progressive sales and management roles. I have also managed Pizza Hut restaurants and Rite Aid pharmacies, while attending college. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to operate my own business.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
My wife and I wanted to help children and make a difference in our communities. Mathnasium gives us that chance, while providing a sound financial model. Mathnasium has a proven curriculum and teaching methods that have been developed over 35 years. They have been successful in helping thousands of children around the world. Math has always been a favorite subject for us, and we and our families wanted to bring that same joy and passion to other families.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Our first center cost $35,000 for the franchise fee, legal and accounting costs; $7,000 for the first month's rent and security deposit; and $15,000 for the sign, furniture, technology and supplies. Luckily, the space was mostly built out, so we only spent about $10,000 on leasehold improvements, mainly new carpet and paint. Our pre-opening marketing was about $15,000. That was a total of approximately $82,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I read many books about starting small businesses, including managing people and handling marketing needs and customer service. Most of my advice came from existing franchisees. I contacted the most successful operators and fastest starters in the company and asked them what they did. I then combined everything I got from them and designed my own template for success. This is another great reason to invest in a franchise: You are gaining the experience of the operators before you. You can use this knowledge to avoid making the same mistakes.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
We had different challenges from those of the traditional operator. We did so much pre-opening marketing, especially with schools and community events, that we were very successful on the first day. We enrolled enough students in the first 90 days that we outgrew our space! So, we had "growing pains" that extended to hiring enough instructors, properly training them and maintaining our quality of education. These were all good "problems” to have; nevertheless, they presented some major challenges!
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
My advice is to always make sure to choose a business you will enjoy and one that fits with your lifestyle. Make sure you spend some time observing the business, and really understand it. If you choose a business that is right for you, you will be happy and more likely to succeed. The franchisee should also plan to hire great people who complement his or her skills. For example, if you are not comfortable with marketing and sales, hire someone who will be great in that role, and will complement your strengths.
What’s next for you and your business?
We have just opened our ninth Mathnasium Learning Center, including five in just 14 months. I plan on spending the summer relaxing and building up our team and systems. Later this year, we plan to open one to two additional centers and get to a total of 15 by the end of next year.