According to the Kumon tutoring services franchise website, “One of the largest and most established franchise businesses in the world, Kumon has nearly 250,000 students enrolled at more than 1,500 individually owned and operated Math & Reading Centers in U.S. and Canada alone.”
As we reported in the post KUMON Franchise Owner Complains of Overexpansion, some franchise owners of Kumon North America are increasingly disturbed by what they see as burdensome new regulations, encroachment and intentional oversaturation by their parent company.
David Joseph, an outspoken owner who has posted his concerns on UnhappyFranchisee.com as well as his own blog, recently decided to sell his franchise and leave the Kumon system.
He explains why below:
“I received requests to explain why we decided to sell our Kumon center. There were several factors that led to our decision to sell but ultimately we decided to pursue an opportunity that gave us the best chance to meet our personal and professional goals.
“We took ownership of our center in December, 2005. Shortly after we took over the center, we saw the potential for further growth and found ourselves thinking about moving to a larger space. The estimated cost to build out a larger space was $40,000 while remodeling the current space was approximately $10,000. We weighed the pros and cons and opted to move to a larger space because we saw long term potential with our business. After receiving approval from Kumon franchising, we opened our new larger space in November 2006. The space was zoned commercial office, had good visibility, and was in close proximity to several shopping plazas. Kumon was so delighted by our new space that a member of the franchising team suggested that we sign a 10 year lease to reduce our rent. We instead chose to sign a 5 year lease to be in better alignment with Kumon’s 5 year franchise agreement. Enrollment grew 80% in the new space over a period of 2.5 years. Business was good and we generated a nice profit. The $40,000 investment paid back very quickly.
“In February 2009, we received notification that Kumon’s 2010 franchise agreement (FA) will require centers to be located in space zoned for commercial retail; with the caveat that Kumon can grant exceptions. In addition, Kumon corporate had the right to change a center’s hours of operation if Kumon corporate deemed it beneficial for the community. We were concerned about the language and asked how the new language will impact our business. The head of franchising explained that it was not Kumon’s “intent” for our center to be impacted by the language in the 2010 FA. Unfortunately, a business can not make long term decisions based on the “intent” of Kumon’s franchising department. We knew, based on the experience of other owners, that it was not easy to find a new location. We also knew from other owners that Kumon corporate did not help identify new locations or help address zoning issues. We did not like facing the possibility of having to spend more money on moving to a new location. Just 2 years earlier, we spent $40,000 on building out a new larger space. We also did not like Kumon corporate having the power to dictate hours of operation. After all, we are owners, not Kumon employees. The changes to the 2010 FA really made us consider selling the business.
“Another issue that factored into our decision to sell was Kumon’s changing furniture requirements. In early 2009, the regional leaders visited our center and declared that we did not have approved Junior Kumon furniture. However, we purchased the Junior Kumon Kit from Kumon in 2005. It turns out that the furniture to which the regional leaders were referring was the same table we already had but with a different laminate top and chairs that were black instead of blue. Although this may seem like a minor issue, we felt this was another example of Kumon changes that may lead to additional costs to an owner. At this point we began seriously wondering how many Kumon changes were in store and the costs we could incur because of those changes.
“We then started hearing about new franchise locations being placed in close proximity to existing successful centers; some new locations were less then 2 miles away. We thought that Kumon was changing their market penetration targets and was trying to implement a saturation strategy. There were already 5 Kumon centers within a 5 mile radius of our center according to Kumon.com. We were concerned about the possibility that another center could be placed within 2 miles of our center. It turned out Kumon corporate had plans to aggressively expand the number of centers in North America and in some areas, increased target market penetration rates.
“At this point, we thought selling the center was our best option. Within 2 years of expanding our center, Kumon changed zoning requirements, furniture standards, and market penetration targets. We also felt that Kumon corporate did not respect the amount of money current owners already invested in their business. If Kumon did respect the amount of money invested by owners, subsidies and assistance would have been offered to owners that are impacted by Kumon changes. We thought our best move was to cash out.
“Selling the center was a whole other ordeal, mainly because of Kumon franchising. We know we are not the only ones disappointed with the franchising department because we’ve been contacted by other franchisees (existing and potential) that are having issues with Kumon franchising in the NJ/PA area. I will not get into details, but let’s just say the leadership, professionalism, and skill sets in Kumon franchising is lacking. I’m sure there are some people within franchising that have the requisite skills, unfortunately we did not have the pleasure of dealing with those people during our sale. I may share details on our experience at another time. We have already sent a detailed account of our experience to leadership functions within Kumon corporate. I encourage the people that contacted me to share your experiences with the franchise department with Kumon leadership.
“My intent in writing this post was to explain why we decided to sell our center, not to dissuade people from buying a Kumon franchise. We did not believe that putting more money into this business was wise for us. We were concerned about a corporate organization that did not seem to value the investment made by Kumon owners. We also thought we could find opportunities that were better investments in terms of time and money. Once we opened ourselves up to selling the center, a better opportunity did present itself. In the end, we decided to pursue the better opportunity and sell our center. We could not be happier about our decision.
“Please feel free to continue to contact me if you have Kumon questions, need a different perspective, or just need to vent.
“Wishing everyone the best of luck,
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE KUMON TUTORING FRANCHISE? WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHARE A COMMENT BELOW.