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Talking to the trailblazers in Childers’s franchise – School of Rock

14 Oct 2022 - The largest music school franchise in the United States, School of Rock has grown internationally over the past twenty years, opening locations in 15 other nations. With their proprietary, performance-based curriculum, they assist aspiring musicians in mastering skills, unleashing creativity, and developing the tools they need to excel in life. With the help of Rock n’ Roll, School of Rock enables you to explore your musical passion while enhancing the lives of others.

Let us discover more from Anthony (Tony) Padulo, CFE is Chief Development Officer for School of Rock. In his role, Tony leads SoR’s global franchise sales and real estate efforts.

With over 39 years’ experience in Franchise Development, Tony has served as EVP, Global Development for BrightStar Care. Before joining BrightStar Care, Tony was VP of Franchise Development for Goddard Systems. Tony had responsibility for franchise sales, resales, new school openings, market planning, real estate development, construction and franchise financing. Prior to joining Goddard, Tony was the Vice President of Franchise Sales and Development for AAMCO Transmissions Inc.

1. How did you enter the franchise business?

I started in the franchise business in 1975 in Montreal. I was working a Business development coordinator for Petro Canada Oil Company, offering licenses to new gas station owners, when I saw an ad for a Franchise development manager for Dunkin’ Donuts. I got the job and have been in franchising ever since, and always in the franchise development/real estate development side of the franchise business.

2. Where and how did the idea of your concept come from?

School of Rock was started in 1997 as a traditional music school teaching rock music. By coincidence, the founder had an opportunity to play at a friend’s art gallery, and he brought his students together to form a band. He then discovered that the performance based education was a much more though way for the kids to learn how to play, as the rehearsals motivated the kids to play more, practice more and created a community sprit of learning together. The rest, as one says, is history!

3. What inspired the brand name?

The name is very direct and quite simply says what we are…a school of rock

School of Rock is a growing passionate community dedicated to enriching lives through performance-based music education

4. What is the story behind the brand’s logo?

The logo reflects our name along with the guitar swirl, as the guitar is at the core of rock music.

5. What makes your brand different from your competitors?

With the performance-based music approach as a point of differentiation, and in addition to being the largest music education franchise in the world, our concept is more potent than traditional music programs. We combine private lessons powered by our proprietary School of Rock Method™ with weekly ensemble practices. We have seen that kids (and adults) learn better and faster when they are put into a community-based programs. Being in a rehearsal with other kids motives the child to be a part of the community so they want to keep up to the lessons. Additionally, we have a full curriculum of learning, non existent in other music schools, augmented with a patented School of Rock Method.

6. What are the essential qualities that you look for in a franchisee?

We are looking for well qualified master franchisees in our international development. Candidates will have a minimum liquidity of US$1 Million and a net worth of US$5 Million (based on the size of the market). Individuals who are successful, ambitious, motivated with a proven track record of managing an organization, they should possess a strong knowledge and awareness of the local music scene and trends in their market. And lastly, they should have an established team of people or ability to create strong people network and be passionate about the brand and its promise to music education for children and adults.

7. How long does it take, on average, for your franchisee to realize their investment?

Every situation is different, as you can appreciate, and depends on so many different factors based on your investment level and debt service you may decide to incur. As part of our and your due diligence, we would have a comprehensive conversation to discuss and share with you as much information as we can. We always encourage our candidates to speak with our current master franchisees to learn more about the business as well.

8. What was the major challenge you faced in your career and how did you overcome it?

My major challenge has always been when having to cut staff during particularly difficult recessions. Those decisions were always difficult, but I always handled the conversation with the employee being laid off with empathy and respect, assuring them that the decision had nothing to do with results or lack of competence.

8.1 What is your best achievement?

Thankfully, over the course of over 40 years, I am fortunate to have had many great experiences, and areas I am proud of. But the most recent achievement was the non-traditional non development work I was able to do during the Covid pandemic. When Covid hit in March, 2020, we had over 200 schools in the US that immediately went from on-site activity to shutting down for an unknown period of time, and facing significant negative impact from any extended period of time. The company created a remote program within 9 days of closing the schools which allowed our schools to continue operating our programs. My role throughout 2020 suddenly became the “financial assistance expert” and i spent the bulk of my work time researching the aid programs being created by Congress, contacting banks to facilitate the aid processing, and ensuring each franchisee was aware of the programs available to them. As a result, none of our schools closed in 2020 due to Covid, and today, they are stronger than ever, with same school revenues up significantly not only form last year, but also against pre Covid revenues.

9. How does your business day start?

Every day is different based on the current list of activities and priorities at the time. The key is to not lose focus of your priority goals and ensure your activities during the day, week, month align with the achievement of the goals. The important thing is that every day is different and even after 40 years, is fun! Specific activities can range from phone calls with prospective franchisees answering questions and helping them determine if a School of Rock franchise is right for them or talking to new franchisees helping them assess real estate as they search for their first school location, or managing and mentoring my Franchise Development team.

10. What was your best moment throughout your franchise career?

The moment I will always remember which validated what I do for franchisees, came when I was working at Dunkin’ Donuts. I was meeting new franchisees who were about to sign a 10-unit multi-unit agreement. One of the partners was an experience multi-unit franchisee of other brands. While waiting for his other partner, he said to me, “Tony, in all my years of experience, I have never found it more difficult to acquire a franchise. I asked him what he meant, and he said “every time we met or talked about the opportunity, you tried to talk me out of it.” I smiled, looked at him and replied…” then I’ve done my job”. They then proceeded to sign the agreement.

11. Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

We are extremely excited about school of Rock’s growth prospects. Speaking purely from a development perspective (as there are numerous new initiatives in the works on the operational side), we will continue with what we call a responsible and reasonable growth globally. Domestically, we expect to grow at the rate of approximately 40 – 50 new schools per years, and internationally, we anticipate the launch of two new countries each year. We are currently ay 310 schools in 15 countries.

12. Any tips you want to impart to our readers who want to be in the franchise industry?ž

Because of my experience, I am always asked by potential franchisees what advice I have to offer for them to succeed with the franchise. My response is easy, consistent, and applies to any franchise opportunity you are considering:

One, if you are going to acquire the franchise, you must be certain this is the right concept for you and feel passionate about why you want to become a franchisee. Two, you must enter this franchise believing you will become its best franchisee, to me average means mediocre and no franchisor or franchisee wants to be mediocre. And three, trust the franchisor enough that you will follow without deviating its processes and procedures for at least the first two years. You cannot determine if a tweak or change in process works unless you clearly understand the existing procedures.

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