Interview with Shawn Livingston, US Army Veteran & Franchise Owner

Veterans Day Ball 2014-1

Shawn with his father and kids

vet-franHow would you describe Huntington Learning Center as a business?

As a business, if you follow the Huntington system and put in the time, your center will be highly profitable.  The greatest satisfaction to me as a franchise owner is knowing that my destiny is in my hands—Huntington provides you with the support and tools you need, and the execution and the financial gains are controlled by you.   Additionally, there’s a substantial community component—it’s very rewarding to know that you’re helping someone.  And, once you get into it, within a few months you start seeing the impact that you’re having.  For example on the SAT or ACT, we can completely change the tier of school a student is applying to; it can be a real game changer.  At the end of the day, I feel like I’m doing something good and am very glad I made the investment.

Do you think Huntington is a good fit for fellow veterans?

In my career serving in the US Army I have found my fellow Service Members to be very good at implementing proven systems, and that’s what you get at Huntington, a proven system.  There’s also a sort of self-selecting that happens in the military—many military members are called to serve and there’s a strong element of providing for your community associated with running a Huntington franchise.  I highly recommend Huntington to Veterans who want to own their own business.

Did you think about going into other industries or choosing any of Huntington’s competitors and, if so, why did you choose Huntington?

When I was deciding what to do after the Army, I was looking at several industries.   What brought me into education and eventually Huntington, was that I was looking for more of a professional business that had a substantial community element.  It would have been easy to go into making sandwich’s or something like that, however with Huntington my staff are all college educated professionals and we have a real impact in the community.

As I considered other tutoring companies I evaluated several competitors and when I did my research on how they operate and the programs involved, I felt like Huntington was the premier service and offered the greatest potential as a business.  I eventually met with another Huntington franchisee and that solidified everything I’d been thinking.  The owner enjoyed the business and had success for quite some time.  That’s when I decided it was right for me.

How would you describe the support and technology offered to you by the franchisor?

I think the support is great.  I know that if I ever have a question I’ll be able to get the answer soon.  Like the military, Huntington ensures everything we get in our centers works—I don’t worry that our innovations are going to have big flaws in them.  Everything has been thoroughly tested.  For example, I’m very optimistic about our eCenter technology and the time and expense savings my fellow franchisees are achieving, and the potential revenue impact as well.

What is your perspective on the impact of the marketing you do? 

I definitely get a good response from the marketing materials we have.   We have the whole range of options—from digital to direct mail to print—and the media mix gets people to call.  Additionally, TV works really well.  I like the new commercial we have and think the videos we’ve just added online are really strong.  There are a lot of other tutoring companies out there and I think we’re the premier provider everyone else is chasing from the perspective of not only branding, but also from the tutoring product itself.

Any parting thoughts for those considering investing in Huntington?

The business is like the program for students.  When you put the time in and follow the system, you’ll get great results.  It works for the students we teach and it works running the business.  Being devoted to running your business will make you successful.  Tutoring isn’t going to go anywhere as a business—parents are always going to be focused on their kids, and it’s rewarding to control my own success.

Shawn Livingston owns two Huntington Learning Centers in Raleigh, North Carolina

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