When the Big Blue Swim School team created its franchise model, they did so with the intention of making the process as seamless as possible for its franchisees. The brand largely operates on an absentee franchisee model, and so creating processes and putting systems in place to help ease day-to-day management responsibilities have been a major priority as the brand seeks to expand its footprint.
Part of easing the franchisee recruitment process and creating a system that allows for a quicker return on investment meant creating a welcoming atmosphere for families, one that encourages long-term relationships as students meet their swimming milestones. Through a combination of hiring full-time instructors, building safe and comfortable facilities and, as Big Blue Swim School Chief Development Officer Scott Thompson likes to say, “inspiring big moments,” the swim school brand ensures that customers will want to stay with the brand on a long-term basis and help franchisees maximize their ROIs.
One way that Big Blue Swim School stands out in the segment is its process of strategically developing swimming facility layouts for maximum capacity, which is hugely beneficial to both customers and franchisees. Parents have more available class times to choose from and can send their children of different ages to swimming lessons at the same time.
“One of the things we learned was that our competitors’ customer base was diminishing at about five years old,” Thompson said. “Once the kids learned how to swim, their parents were enrolling them in other activities. After the age of five, most schools cannot handle that group of kids in the six to 10 age range. They have to leave the pool and start other activities. By building out bigger facilities with more lanes, we’re able to capture a much higher volume of kids.”
Big Blue Swim School also has a corporate member services center that answers 20,000 phone calls per year per facility for our swim school franchise partners. They handle lost and found, operational issues and any customer questions so that franchisees and district managers do not have to handle such matters at the local level. The brand also handles all of the marketing for its franchisees at both the local and national levels, as well as site selection, lease negotiation, design permitting and more.
“We handle matters such as strategic real estate market planning for our franchisees so they can focus on building their team and providing exceptional customer service,” Thompson said. “A majority of franchisors rely on franchisees or local brokers to find the right site for them based on their knowledge of the market versus empirical data. At Big Blue Swim School, we have an eight-person in house real estate team to handle this process for our education franchise partners. This team includes an analyst, construction manager, facilities manager, four deal makers throughout the country and a head designer. The team uses data-driven real estate assessment technology to find locations that will work for franchise partners.”
Big Blue Swim School’s franchise model has helped attract the right candidates to the brand. Thompson noted the brand is currently attracting many power couples and people who have previous small business ownership experience, as well as candidates who have “great financial experience” and general management experience. Real estate developers who want to diversify their portfolios, multi-unit developers and other “sophisticated franchise developers and / or operators” looking for a high ROI also tend to be interested in franchising with Big Blue Swim School.
The brand recently added franchisees Erik and Wendy Skaalerud of Denver, Colorado to their system. The former Orangetheory franchisees are the first franchisees in the Big Blue Swim School’s system, and they signed a five-unit deal to bring the brand to the Denver area.
“They love building teams of people and they’re pretty savvy,” Thompson said of the multi-unit investors. “We’re also attracting smaller private equity groups that own multiple locations of other service-based retail brands and are interested in our absentee business model.”
When it comes to customer service, Big Blue Swim School prides itself on making life easier for families. If a parent ever needs to reschedule their child’s swimming lesson, for example, they can easily do so through the brand’s proprietary software, Lesson Buddy. This is hugely beneficial to franchisees, as well, as it eliminates the need to hire staff members to answer phones for the sole purpose of rescheduling. Franchisees can use those resources elsewhere. Lesson Buddy also ensures franchisees that pools are always being used to maximum capacity and revenue, which Thompson said
The brand’s proprietary software also helps franchisees focus on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as churn rates, free trial lesson conversions, labor costs and sales numbers.
“I truly believe the software is what’s driving the business,” Thompson said. “It is an absentee model, so if you plug a general manager in there with our software, you can run the business.”
By providing families with a convenient space in which their children can learn to swim, and by providing franchisees with solid support and proven systems that allow them to focus on building their customer base, Big Blue Swim School is consistently showing why it’s attracting interest from multi-unit owners.
The startup costs for a Big Blue Swim School Fitness franchise range from $1,767,500 to $3,646,000. The franchise fee is $50,000. The real estate and construction management fee is $68,000. The new pool opening fee is $60,000. To learn more about franchising opportunities with Big Blue Swim School.