INTERVIEW WITH TRISH HARE SWIMKIDZ FRANCHISOR

Trish Hare: I live in Reading with my husband and two dogs!! I had a career in the corporate world Managing a call centre for a large utility company and then moved on to be a Human Resources Manager in a debt recovery company. The experience I gained in these companies was very wide ranging but taught me first and foremost about putting the customer first.

Whilst I enjoyed this part of my career I felt there was something missing and I looked for something which would combine a passion of mine with an opportunity to be my own boss.

My daughter, when she was younger, swam competitively up to national standard and during my time taking her to training I started to get into swimming myself and joined a Masters swimming squad.

Drawing on these experiences it became the obvious choice to set up a swimming school for babies, toddlers and children. I started Swimkidz in Berkshire after researching the market and finding that the whole journey from baby to 10 year olds was not being offered by any other swim school.

Could you explain why and how you developed into a Franchise business.

TH: After a short while Swimkidz expanded out of Reading and spread down the M4 corridor. I had to start to train additional teachers in my methods as I wanted to ensure that the quality was consistent.

I was already an ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) teacher of many years so I became a Swimming Teachers Association tutor to ensure the basics were taught and then added the innovative Swimkidz program onto it.

It soon became obvious that due to the demand that was increasing each term I needed to look at it in a different way. After considering various options Franchising Swimkidz became the obvious choice to ensure the sustained growth and most importantly the quality of lessons and customer service.

I was very fortunate that I had developed a fantastic customer base and the parents had really bought into the structure of the lessons and the approach we take. A couple of the parents became interested in running a Franchise themselves and this how the Franchising journey started.

It must have been very daunting starting up, what sort of challenges did you encounter on this journey?

TH: Starting Swimkidz didn’t seem that daunting and I think this is because swimming is a real passion of mine and I had a clear concept that I wanted to develop into a high quality customer friendly business. Along the journey there are obstacles which we have overcome and fortunately I have a very strong support network including my husband. The challenges that we encountered along the way included:

  • Developing our IT system and website
  • Writing our comprehensive Operations Manual and processes
  • Ensuring the financial management and training reflected the needs of the business.

Recruiting Franchisees and teachers that have the same passion for swimming and exceptional customer service Along the journey we have built up a network of very good service providers for our IT system and website but it took a little time to source companies that we trust and have the same outlook on life.

This is a very important part of our business because with this in place we can concentrate and focus our energies into delivering the swimming lessons for our clients. This is supported by our operations manual and financial systems but it did take a little time to get these right.

People are key to the success of any business and we initially found that finding people who share our vision and values quite difficult but as we have developed Swimkidz this has become easier.

It looks like the hard work you have put in is paying off for you now, what is the most enjoyable part of what you do?

TH: I have to pinch myself every now and again when I look at what we have achieved in such a short time but it has taken a lot of hard work to achieve it. I have deliberately continued on an area under my direct control as a Franchise.

This is primarily so that I can experience the challenges that our Franchisees come across and develop solutions to these.

It also has a personal benefit of seeing our customers experience the lessons myself and gives an immense amount of personal satisfaction from their positive feedback.

The babies, toddlers and young children are a joy to watch while they are having fun bonding with their parents.

I have only been able to do this by having a fantastic team to help in supporting the Franchisees both Nationally and Internationally.

This was demonstrated recently when we successfully launched Swimkidz in Thailand. The work that the Country Manager and the whole team carried out has delivered a very successful business with very satisfied customers.

Besides learning to swim, do children learn other valuable skills at your classes?

TH: For the younger ones especially, the most important things that we teach aren’t actually the swimming skills. The water safety and water confidence skills are much more important.

When a child who is not confident in water falls in, they generally go into shock and aren’t able to call for help or to help themselves.

But a water confident child will have experienced the feeling of falling into water and will know exactly what to do.

We practice these kinds of skills right from the first lesson because we believe they are so important. Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children so we really feel passionately about how important it is.

What changes have you seen to the children’s activity and service industry since you started?

TH: People are starting to realise the importance of water safety and to think about giving their children swimming lessons much earlier than they used to. Venture Marketing: What are the three most important things to successfully run a Franchise? Trish Hare: We look for people with the following:

  • Passion. It is important that people coming into the business enjoy what they do and this is helped if they have a passion for swimming.
  • Commitment. Owning a Franchise takes dedication to customer service and ensuring that the structure of lessons and principles of Swimkidz are followed.
  • Customer Focus. Customers are the backbone of our Franchise and it is important that people have the right attitude to customers so that the service they receive is exceptional. We are always looking for exceptional people to buy a Swimkidz Franchise so if anyone believes they have the above please do not hesitate to get in contact.

What can you offer someone who would like to become a Swimkidz Franchisee?

TH: Because of the way we have developed and grown the business we have a lot of experience in starting up Franchises in both the UK and Internationally.

This experience has helped us develop a flexible offer for new entrants into the Franchising field including full training of both the swimming and business aspects of a Franchise.

Request more information about Swimkdz here.

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