Franchised Education Growth Continues With Learning Experience Acquisition
From janitor to CEO of early-education franchise The Learning Experience, Richard Weissman is no stranger to impressive growth in the education industry. After “significant interest” from multiple holding companies, TLE was recently acquired by Golden Gate Capital—the next step in the company’s consistent progress.
“I don’t think it’s going change one thing other than providing more capital,” Weissman said of the acquisition. He explained that his management team has experienced double-digit growth for 15 consecutive years, and doesn’t think any private equity firm would want to risk a challenge to that team.
Access to capital, understanding a multi-unit operation platform and real estate portfolio, and allowing the management team to continue its five-year plan to continue double-digit growth are all things Weissman said TLE is getting from Golden Gate, a San Francisco-based private equity firm. With more than $15 billion of capital under management, TLE fits under Golden Gate’s multi-unit consumer investment portfolio, which also includes Red Lobster, Eddie Bauer, and Express Oil Change & Tire Engineers.
“We are excited to partner with Richard, his leadership team, and the company’s franchisees to accelerate their growth plans domestically and internationally in the growing early childhood education market,” Josh Cohen, managing director at Golden Gate Capital, said in the press release.
Weissman also mentioned TLE’s plans to expand internationally. Its first location in the United Kingdom will open in 2019, Weissman said, with other locations in Europe to follow. “We’re going to put in that initiative for international growth,” he said.
With this additional capital, TLE is also hoping to improve its edutainment platform BubblesU, and add more corporate-owned centers to its franchise system.
Though growing fast, TLE is still “a great believer that we all start as owner-operators” in franchising, Weissman said. “We like franchisees that evolve.”
The franchised education company looks for franchisees that follow the system, learn the business from the ground up, and grow a successful TLE center. After this, TLE educates them on how to operate multiple locations. “Our focus is always on the individual owner-operator, and to train that individual as a good businessperson to own multiple units.”
Weissman continually praised his experienced management system, the majority of which have been around since the beginning. While not wanting to “knock the competition,” he credited the focus of the TLE brand and consistent evolution of the company for its success. “I think that constant reinvestment into who and what we are as a brand has really catapulted us to significant growth above the industry average,” he said. “We are solely The Learning Experience.”
The early-education industry is also growing simply in terms of need, Weissman said. As a sector second only to healthcare as a gross domestic product in the U.S., he mentioned, it makes sense that education would be growing with the population. “It’s such a large component of every single individual,” Weissman said.
The technology and benefits parents have now compared to decades ago when preschool and nursery education were not seen as a “true form” of education are also contributing to the growth of early education, Weissman said. He noted that the industry is doing well based on an evolution of knowledge, as we find out more about the importance of learning in the critical early years.
“We gain most of our IQ before the age of 7, therefore we have to provide this knowledge to our children,” he added.
On a daily basis as CEO, Weissman included the growth aspect of the business, focus on capital and international initiatives in his priorities. Though not leaving any time soon, Weissman has confidence that TLE would continue its progress given his absence, making it clear that his role would be much harder without a structured and dedicated management team.
“As captain of the ship I always try to steer us right, but it takes the engine room to make sure we go forward.”