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SA Franchise Brands welcomes Dee Tshangela, a Franchisee for Kumon Education SA in Soweto – Power Park, to share some aspects on being a Franchisee.

What questions should prospective Franchisees ask themselves before buying a franchise?

DSC_4582You need to decide if this is something that you can commit yourself to whole heartedly.  You need to have a “Give it All” mentality and understand that at first it may not always be easy.  A Franchisee needs to be prepared to take the challenges that will come their way in their stride and needs to focus on their ultimate goal of being successful.  Every day as a Franchisee is a learning experience and you need to realise that you will not always know it all, but that you will be learning along the way.  I doubt anyone can ever be 100% sure, but if you can get yourself 80% of the way and be prepared to do the work you will get there.  Keep focussing on your motivation because that is what you will need to rely on during the challenging times.

What made you decide to buy a franchise?

I was actually so inspired by my daughter and how well she did as a result of the Kumon programme.  I reflected on my own experience with learning, and realised that while I wasn’t exposed to these opportunities during my schooling days there are so many children out there who can be.  I felt that by becoming a Kumon Franchisee I would really be in the position to change lives.  The skills they learn at Kumon are something that no one can ever take away from them and I am instrumental in giving these children the opportunity to go further, reach higher and do more.

Something I read recently really struck me as something relevant to the Kumon journey my students are taking, and the journey I am on as a Franchisee:

“Don’t be pushed by your problems.  Be led by your dreams.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

How important is it to investigate a franchise and what criteria did you use?

For me it was about finding something that would give back.  The bottom line and finances are always important, but I really wanted something that would be adding value to the community and so I looked around for something that would not only be a financially viable business for me, but also what would have the longest and furthest reaching effects on the community.  It was Kumon that spoke to me in this regard.

What made you buy a Kumon Education SA franchise?

As I had this desire to “give back”, I needed something that had a workable model.  Being a total novice in business I needed to make sure that the franchise I was buying into had a solid reputation and was something that was sustainable. If you look at Kumon you will see that it is not only here in South Africa that it has been successful, but it is part of a global organisation which is successful all over the world.  I also identified strongly with the original reason behind the development of the Kumon programme, which was the inspirational journey that took place between parent and child, and the result of which was the Kumon programme.

What early challenges did you face?

Although people had heard of Kumon and had perhaps seen signs or advertisements, they still didn’t understand the concept.  A lot of people look at an extracurricular programme and assume that it will be just like a school. Even for myself I had heard about Kumon but it wasn’t until I really began seeing the results in my own child that I really began to understand what it was all about.  It is challenging to bring other parents round to that point of view, explaining that we are not a “Saturday school” where the same thing is learned as at school. The Kumon programme is about building foundations and then working well above your grade and even on an international standard which is something that isn’t necessarily a known concept or easily accepted.  In a lot of ways you are showing parents the “theory” and asking them to trust you with their children as the only way they will really begin to believe is when they see the results.

I have also faced challenges with students who do not come from literate families and so the support isn’t necessarily there at home for the student.  This often means that we do require a larger amount of independence and self-motivation from our students earlier and this can be problematic.

What training and support does the Franchisor provide you with?

After my initial training, it felt a bit like information overload and I was worried about how I would begin to apply all of this theory.  However, what I realised is that Kumon provides you with this wealth of information, but you need to use it to make it succeed.  Various guides and handbooks are given out and these are my first stop when debating on the progression of a student, and I make sure that I really read the materials given to me, digest it, and use it in my centre. I have area manager support, training and workshops, and what is great is that when I am ever in doubt I can just make a call and have support from the Kumon office.

Kumon also has a dedicated distribution centre that is just wonderful.  If there are ever any glitches in the process we are informed well in advance and Kumon makes the effort to ensure that these glitches do not affect the running of the Kumon Centre or the progress of the students.

How important is the Franchisee’s relationship with the Franchisor?

This is a crucial relationship, but it is important to note that it is not about friendship.  The Franchisor’s priority should always be to protect the brand and by giving the Franchisees the support they need to ensure that the programme is run properly and following the Kumon guidelines this is what they are doing.  I know I can call on them at any time, but that I can also trust them to be honest with me regarding how I am running my centre and to point me in the right direction if I am ever off track.

What advice would you give to prospective Franchisees?

Believe in your product, have an open mind and when you commit to it, commit to it 100% whatever the bumps in the road turn out to be.  Going into a business needs to reflect in your life as well – make sure that it will reflect positively in everything that you do.

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