Huntington Learning Center

Huntington 1

As it celebrates its 40th anniversary, Huntington Learning Center remains focused

on the success of its students and franchisees.

By Jim Harris

For the past 40 years, Huntington Learning Center has helped students gain the skills and knowledge they need to excel in school and the rest of their lives.

A pioneer and leader in the growing tutoring and test preparation industry, the company has grown significantly from its origins while staying true to its mission to give every student the best education possible. “It’s been very exciting to see the difference we’ve been able to make in students’ lives,” co-founder and CEO Eileen Huntington says.

Huntington, a former high school teacher, and her husband, Ray, opened the first Huntington Learning Center in 1977 after she observed that many of her students had difficulty with basic writing, reading or math skills. Ray Huntington, who at the time was working in business research, brought his business knowledge to the new company, while Eileen Huntington focused on the educational end of the business.

“We made a conscious effort to go into business together, but we had no idea how successful it would be,” she says. “By the end of the first summer we were open, we knew we had a good business.”Huntington Fact Box

The Huntingtons opened several corporate-owned locations before they began franchising the business in 1985. Today there are roughly 300 centers in 39 states, including 35 owned and operated by the Huntington family.

Huntington Learning Center offers tutoring services for students in grades K-12 in subjects such as math, reading and writing, science, spelling and vocabulary. In addition, the company offers one-on-one test preparation courses for exams including the ACT and SAT.

‘World-Class Results’

The company’s approach to tutoring involves working with students to determine their basic strengths and weaknesses, and then helping them build a customized program. “We take a diagnostic and prescriptive approach that lets us dig deep, get to the heart of the issue and change students’ lives,” says Anne Huntington, the company’s head of partnerships and development and the daughter of its founders.

The company uses a proprietary learning system that includes a suite of digital tools. Online programs that supplement what students learn with tutors on-site are also offered.

One of Huntington Learning Center’s digital tools, Navigator, supports teachers and improves efficiencies in instruction. “This enables us to ensure the teacher is following the program and doesn’t leave out any pieces that the student might need,” Eileen Huntington says. “That is why we get world-class results.”

On average, students tutored at Huntington Learning Center increase one grade level in math and reading after three months. Students in the test preparation program typically see a four-point increase in their ACT scores and a 200-point increase in their SAT scores in the same period of time. “We produce results,” Eileen Huntington says. “We’re changing lives everyday, and get countless letters from parents thanking us for the work we do.”

Ahead of the Curve

Maintaining exemplary student results while keeping its franchisees profitable is a high priority for the company. “We’re always finding ways to adapt to the market in a sensitive and methodical way,” Anne Huntington says.

Eileen and Anne Huntington credit the company’s adaptability to the work of its management team, which includes people who have been with the company for 30 or more years. One change the company has adapted to is state testing requirements; for example, the state of Illinois, which once required only the ACT for college-bound students, has for the past two years instead required the SAT. Huntington Learning Center was also one of the first tutoring companies to offer services under the No Child Left Behind Act.

“We have the resources to manage changes when they happen,” Anne Huntington says. “We are on the ground making sure we are ahead of the curve.”

In addition to managing educational changes, Huntington Learning Center in recent years has also managed economic change. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 spurred the company to change the up-front costs to open a new franchise. The company reduced the initial investment range for a franchise from $250,000 to $300,000 to between $100,000 and $200,000. In addition, it reduced the required size of a new location from 2,500 square feet to 1,200 to 1,400 square feet.

“We’ve made it a lot easier to get into the business,” Vice President of Sales Darlene Viering says. “We’re keeping expenses low so franchises can hit profitability quickly.”

Huntington Learning Center’s average site revenue is $505,000, 63 percent higher than the company’s closest competitor, Huntington Learning Center says. “Our revenue is better than the competition because we really know Huntington 2

how important it is to get results with students,” Eileen Huntington says. “We know that if you don’t get results, you won’t be in business.”

Support Systems

The majority of the company’s franchisees come from a corporate business background. The company offers financing assistance to its franchisees in the form of a loan of up to $100,000. “Our franchisees are folks who want to have their own business, but they want to do something that will make a difference,” Viering says. “We hear over and over that our franchisees want to give back to the community.”

New franchisees are provided a number of tools to help them succeed. “We have a program, which we call ‘Steps to Success,’ that is designed to get our franchisees’ centers opened,” Viering says. “While in the program, franchisees are given a great deal of operational support, including from a franchise business consultant who begins working with the franchisee immediately.”

In addition, the company’s corporate facility team helps franchisees with site selection, design and layout. Training includes in-person site training as well as ongoing support from Huntington Learning Center’s national call center.

The company’s coaching services team helps franchisees build their business by talking to schools and parents. Franchisees are also provided a complete technology package as well as marketing support.

Franchisees continue to work with coaches well beyond their opening date through weekly calls. Ongoing support also includes regional meetings and a national convention. “We don’t just open the doors and say `good luck,’” Eileen Huntington says. “We get out into the markets with our franchisees to roll out programs and help them be the best they can be.”

The company’s newest programs include programs geared toward advanced study skills for college-bound students. “A lot of our students still needed skills before college,” she adds.

Huntington Learning Center also recently developed a tutoring program aimed toward students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The company worked in conjunction with University of California San Francisco professor Dr. Mary Rooney to develop the ADHD program. “We’ve been helping kids with ADHD for 40 years, but now have a formalized program,” Eileen Huntington says. “Rooney has observed our program, and is amazed at the type of results we’ve achieved.”

A Secure Future

Huntington Learning Center continues to grow locations and invest in new programs that help it fulfill its mission. The company expects to add 48 franchisees in 2017 alone.

The company’s future is secure, as Anne Huntington is beginning to take on a greater role as its second-generation leader. “We’re thrilled to have her in the business,” Eileen Huntington says. “Her transition into the business has been very, very exciting. We are looking forward to the growth we will continue to have in the future.”

Anne Huntington says the company will remain a family business dedicated to helping students for the next 40 years and beyond. “We will continue to focus on our world-class vision to provide student results and franchisee profitability,” she adds.

SIDEBAR:

Awards and Accreditations

Huntington Learning Center is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the Commissions of Elementary and Secondary Schools and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. All of these organizations also accredit public and private schools and universities.

The company was recently listed at No. 63 on Entrepreneur’s 2017 “Franchise 500” list, and was recognized as a top franchisor by Franchise Business Review in 2016 and 2017. That publication also ranked the company among the Top 50 franchises for women.

CEO and co-founder Eileen Huntington received the 2016 Brava Award for Top Powerhouse Female Business Leaders from SmartCEO, which also awarded the company its Family Business Award.

 

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