Goddard School Franchisees
Published April 9, 2021

How the #1 Rated Education Franchise Uses Franchisee Satisfaction Data to Get Better Every Year

President & CEO of Goddard Systems, Inc., Dennis Maple, explains how they use their annual survey to baseline against competitors as well as their own goals for success.  

The Goddard School has been a top-ranked franchise for the past 9 years, and has been Best-in-Category for four years running. Dennis Maple, president & CEO, sat down with us to explain how they use their franchisee satisfaction survey data to constantly measure the success of the objectives they’ve committed to for their system, why their FBR survey gives them credibility with candidates, and how their most recent survey enabled them to understand how to improve communications with their franchisees, faculty, and parents, and what they needed to do to help franchisees continue to thrive, during the pandemic and beyond.

Watch the Video: 

 

Michelle Rowan: Today, we’re here with Dennis Maple, the President and CEO of the Goddard School, or the Goddard System, the franchisor of the Goddard Schools. Dennis, thank you so much for joining us today.

Dennis Maple: Good morning, Michelle. It’s great to be here.

Michelle: I looked it up, and we’ve worked with the team since 2012 gathering feedback from your franchisees. You consistently make our awards list. I wanted to ask, what does it mean to you to be a Franchisee Satisfaction Award winner so many years in a row?

Dennis: It’s really fantastic. One of the first things that I saw when I joined the organization was some of the work that you’ve done historically. I was really surprised and pleased to see that we’ve been rated number one in your education sector, and we’ve been on your Top 200 for the duration of the time that we’ve been working with you.

I think that speaks volumes about the strength of this franchise business, the franchise business model, and in particular, Goddard. It means a great deal: A lot of information that we’re able to use as part of our processing to try to get better each and every year.

Michelle: It’s great. We do work with your team each year and you do have a lot of custom questions. I know that you’re using it for more than just the part you share with candidates. I would love to hear what your experience has been on how you use the data with your team. How do you use it to drive any of your goal planning or your measurement on how you’re doing?

Dennis: First and foremost, from my standpoint, it’s always important to know what your various constituents think about the work you’re doing as an organization. That could be with our people, but certainly, in this particular case, it’s about our franchisees and their opinions, their thoughts, as it relates to policies, practices, and strategies.

Getting these survey questions done each year gives us a way to baseline against our competitors, against other franchisors, but also really importantly, against the things that we’ve committed to do for our system.

Getting these survey questions done each year gives us a way to baseline against our competitors, against other franchisors, but also really importantly, against the things that we’ve committed to do for our system.

A quick anecdotal story…back in August…we’d been communicating daily, oftentimes, with franchisees. We thought we had done a really effective job, and yet the survey said they wanted more. We had introduced these things called input groups where we have teams of franchisees that weigh in on specific policies, practices, and strategies.

We knew that, based on the desire of franchisees to have us do more, we needed to think more broadly. As a consequence of this survey, we accelerated the introduction of the Goddard Franchisee Advisory Group, which will be a national organization that will be comprised of some of our executives and franchisees.

It gives us an opportunity to get more intimate interaction with people, but also to show that their points of view matter and that we’re interested in hearing what they have to say.

Michelle: I love it. I also love that all of your departments tend to be very focused on the data that rolls up to them. I love when I get questions from them about how to interpret data, or how to use it, so I know that they’re all tuned in to that information as well.

Dennis: It’s really interesting. When we receive your data, each of the functions will review the sections that relate to them, and then they will go back and validate with franchisees what they’re hearing to make sure that we’re understanding and interpreting the data.

Then, as the senior team, we come together and determine what are the biggest priorities we can leverage and follow up on based on the research that’s been provided by FBR.

Michelle: I love that because I do think our survey gives you that intro into how they’re feeling, but asking those follow‑up questions and going deeper with those who share their name, especially, is a great way to get any clarity you need, or more detail, or invite them to be part of those input groups you’ve created. That’s excellent.

Dennis: Thank you.

Michelle: What I’d like to understand is how would you describe the culture of your brand? How do you foster that culture with your staff, with your franchisees, or how do you try to impact how your franchisees are building the cultures within their organizations?

Dennis: It’s a great question. COVID has taught us, particularly not being around one another as much as we are during more normal times, culture matters. People hearing you and you hearing them really matters. We spend a lot of time on culture.

As it relates specifically to Goddard, our number one job, the number one opportunity, the privilege we have, is to make our world a better place through education of kids.

While we are absolutely a business and we want to see our franchisees who are all independent small businesses thrive and succeed, we also want to make sure that they do so by enriching and touching the lives of those young people that we have the privilege of serving by providing support and access to their parents around a range of subjects that they may not otherwise have access to.

The culture here really has to be one that balances the need to serve others, the opportunity to improve and impact the world in which we live, and of course, for these small business owners, they have success, which provides them the zeal, that energy to be the entrepreneurs they have elected to become.

The culture here really has to be one that balances the need to serve others, the opportunity to improve and impact the world in which we live, and of course, for these small business owners, they have success, which provides them the zeal, that energy to be the entrepreneurs they have elected to become.

It’s really a balance of all of those things, but it starts with young people and the impact that we believe we can have in their lives.

Michelle: This year was different for most brands. I always like to ask, and your franchisees, I believe, were able to be open because they’re an essential business…How has the pandemic impacted the way you do business in supporting the franchisees? What changes did you make, if any, in how you supported them? How did you help them through this last year?

Dennis: If I were to reflect on it, first of all, I had been in this role for about five months. I started early September, and we began notifications and working with the system around COVID in February. In March, we actually shut down our corporate offices, and we began working from home. In fact, we are continuing, even today, to work from home.

We had to regroup really quickly, internally at GSI, and at the same time, provide perspective and insight, and direction to our franchisees and give them assistance in communicating with faculty and with parents in a more robust way, in a more transparent way, and in a more consistent way.

Some of the things that we did: We went first and foremost to daily communications, talking about things that were of interest to either parents or franchisees. Things like PPP, things like interim operating procedures, things like what we need to do when people show up at the front door on the first morning.

Now, keep in mind that over a period of about three months, about 50 percent of our schools shut down for about two weeks or longer. I’m also pleased to say that today, only one of those schools out of the 555 schools, is no longer open.

We were very successful by ensuring that our franchisees understood what resources were available to them, both internally with us Goddard, but also externally, whether it was at SBA or the government programs that were coming out. We explained the impact on the faculty in terms of unemployment compensation.

We talked about, how do you talk to parents about what’s going on in your schools? Then operationally, we changed a number of things. We changed our receiving procedures. We limited people coming into the building. We heightened our sense of sanitation and focus on cleaning surfaces, even more robustly than we typically did. We took some toys out of the buildings.

We began to talk to people about all of the CDC guidelines around social distancing, trying to make sure we were following every aspect of those processes so people would be reassured that our schools were safe and just as reliable and just as much fun as they had historically been.

Michelle: Since the pandemic, are you seeing that your team is switching the way they recruit new candidates, or what they’re talking about, or what candidates are asking about or are more focused on now that we’re, hopefully, coming through the other side of the pandemic?

Dennis: You mean candidates in terms of franchisees, or in terms of families?

Michelle: The franchise candidates. Someone that’s interested in joining the brand.

Dennis: First of all, we have a system that’s been in existence since 1988, and that speaks volumes about the reliability and the foundation of the business that we have the privilege to be a part of. That continues to speak for itself.

In fact, your surveys give us a lot of credibility for those people who are interested in getting into the franchise business model, or into the Goddard system. We’ve continued to rely on the history of that. I would also say that we are trying to be as transparent and as respectful, and as clear with people about who we are and what we stand for.

In fact, your surveys give us a lot of credibility for those people who are interested in getting into the franchise business model, or into the Goddard system. We’ve continued to rely on the history of that. I would also say that we are trying to be as transparent and as respectful, and as clear with people about who we are and what we stand for.

As I talked about earlier, we’re looking for people who share our passion and our vision around education and supporting communities and their children, and who also have that entrepreneurial spirit, understand how to run a business, and are capable and interested in doing so.

I don’t know that I’d say we’ve necessarily changed our perspective in that regard, but we probably heightened our communications and tried to be as clear about what we stand for and why it’s important that the people who join us share that vision and that passion.

Michelle: That’s what I was going to say. I think that just to get people comfortable with that idea of investing into your franchise, being transparent is an excellent opportunity for them to ask those questions about how were the franchisees supported through this last year, because even if your door stayed open, the way you did business totally changed.

I think that providing that information can help them get over that. Are there things that you changed, or that you did for the franchisees in the way they do things this past year that you’ll continue doing, that makes sense for going forward in the way they run their businesses?

Dennis: I think so. At the top of that list is probably how we communicate with them. Your survey indicated the opportunity for us to continue to evolve and to continue to focus in that area, but we also learned that it’s important for our franchisees to communicate even more robustly with faculty and families.

One of the things that’s come out of this has been, how we are engaging with all of those constituencies? We’re changing the frequency of interacting with faculty and directors. We’re trying to be more direct in our communications with families, in addition to, not in replacing, but in addition to, what our franchisees are doing around communication with the families.

We’re going to be introducing a new website very soon. We’ve done some really exciting things like this “Parenting Under Five Video,” which is a way for us to talk to families about some important things that they’re considering. Challenges, concerns, questions that they have.

Those are some of the processes that have come out of our efforts in the midst of COVID, and I absolutely believe we’ll continue to do them. On the operating side, there is a heightened sense of responsibility that says we have to make sure that we are, as I would call, show‑ready every day. What does that mean?

That means that no matter who shows up at the school, it’s not a special day. This is what we do day‑in and day‑out. Again, trying to make sure that people feel comfortable in our environment, trying to make sure that we’re communicating clearly, trying to make sure that we’re all focused on the intent of delivering a great experience and a fun and exciting environment for children.

Michelle: I know you came into the brand and you were dealt a lot of challenges, but I would ask, if you think about it from your standpoint, when you came into a brand – and we’d worked with the brand for just about 10 years before you came in – were you able to use the data to understand what you wanted to tackle first?

Was the FBR data something you considered not doing or not getting feedback again as you took over and decided how you wanted to set the course for the brand?

Dennis: First of all, let me say this, Michelle. The data that you provide us is fantastic. We also like our ratings and rankings in the data. In fact, I believe, for the last four of the last five years in your educational sector, we’ve been rated number one, so we love that.

More important than all of the accolades associated with our performance, is the fact that we get great insight and information. We hear directly from our franchisees. We get to baseline against our competitors. We get to understand how we prepare more broadly in this amazing world of franchising.

More important than all of the accolades associated with our performance, is the fact that we get great insight and information. We hear directly from our franchisees. We get to baseline against our competitors. We get to understand how we prepare more broadly in this amazing world of franchising.

At the end of the day, I don’t see any need that would motivate us to want to go to a different source. I will say this: We are very committed to surveying, and it’s one of the things that we’ve accelerated this idea of talking to these constituencies. We’ve actually, rather than culling back or reducing, we’re actually doing more of this.

More surveys with parents. More surveys with teachers. Of course, we look forward to your survey each year as well, because again, it gives us very unique insights that otherwise we might not be able to get.

By the way, I would also say, as a plug for FBR quite candidly, because you’re associated with this franchising model, your credibility, and your understanding of the unique challenges that the franchising model provides – the relationship between the franchisor and the franchisee and ultimately their consumer – we think that your experience here speaks volumes and gives you great credibility, and so we can rely on the data that you provide to us.

Because you’re associated with this franchising model, your credibility, and your understanding of the unique challenges that the franchising model provides – the relationship between the franchisor and the franchisee and ultimately their consumer – we think that your experience here speaks volumes and gives you great credibility, and so we can rely on the data that you provide to us.

Michelle:  I love hearing that. Dennis, I thank you so much for joining us today. It was great. I will say too, I love seeing that you have done some really extensive surveys with us that take the franchisees a long time to answer. I get that question a lot, “How long is too long of a survey?”

I always say, “There’s no right answer to that. If your team is using the information and the franchisees understand why they’re being asked that, to give up that much time.”

You continue to get a great participation rate every year too, which means the franchisees understand that this information is important to the team, which is fantastic, and you’re all going to be successful together, seeing that every year.

Dennis:  We look forward to it. Thank you.


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About the Author: Ali Forman

As the Marketing Director, Ali’s role is to educate franchise companies about and inspire them to participate in FBR’s research in order to grow and improve their brands. Ali lives in Maine with her husband and two sons.
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