When I took on the role of President at Huntington Learning Center in October of 2019, I had short, mid and long term strategic goals that aligned with our overall vision for the future. Little did I know that only a few short months later, with the onset of the pandemic, that the strategy needed to evolve just as the entire business structure had to in order to survive. This forced rapid disruption and transformation basically overnight.
At this time, as a young leader, I faced the most monumental challenge of my life, a challenge that did not have a playbook or great business school case study to reference. No, this challenge required resilience, grit and the entrepreneurial spirit from within me. I had to ensure that the integrity of the legacy my parents built over the past 40 plus years remained solid while making very survivalist decisions in a matter of hours to ensure that Huntington’s hundreds of franchisees stayed in business and were able to fulfill our mission and help students build skills, confidence and motivation.
Now, over a year later, as I reflect on how I led the entire Huntington system through the past year, I acknowledge the great strength and incredible team and methodology we have that ensured our success. And, as I share with many, we have become a 40 plus year old start-up with lots of innovation and transformation that continues today.
I credit this success to several key factors:
- First, we stayed true to our mission “to give every student the best education possible” and vision of “world-class student results and franchisee profitability”. Our mission has been our driving force since my parents opened the first Huntington Learning Center in 1977. We ensured that every decision made during the pandemic – from launching new services like HuntingtonHelps LIVE and Huntington Study Hall – laddered up to that mission and vision. The questions we asked ourselves when mapping out our strategy was “Will this help us deliver on our mission and vision, and how?” When the answer was clear, we moved on it quickly.
- Second, we communicated more than ever before on every level. New information about the pandemic was coming in by the day, and there was worry and concern at every level of the business – within the corporate team, across our system of approximately 300 franchise locations, and from our thousands of students across the country – as to how these changes were going to affect our day-to-day operations. We doubled down on communication across the board to make sure that our entire Huntington system and customers felt secure and informed.
- Third, we renewed our commitment to teamwork and collaboration. At the onset of the pandemic, I changed how meetings ran and ensured that we had redundancies. I instituted a daily check-in with key members of each department, which continues today. We became extremely collaborative and quick, which created more teamwork and cross-pollination of ideas and outcomes. During this moment, as president, I saw, in real-time, how members of the team adapted, reacted, and worked through key issues to problem solve (or did not). Teamwork and collaboration at Huntington reached new heights – and helped us build a stronger team for the long term.
By focusing on these three areas in my leadership (and with the help of my fantastic team), I can confidently say that despite facing unprecedented challenges, I was able to meet my goal of keeping the legacy of the Huntington Learning Center that my parents built intact. Not only that, but something else was happening during this time – many of my short, mid and long term goals were accomplished in a span of a year. The main one being: taking Huntington online. And now, the results show that a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction gets great results.
Today our business is strong and steady and I’m able to take a step back to think about what building that legacy really means. For me, the future of Huntington and the legacy that I want to build means integrating even more technology and innovation in our model and expanding Huntington’s proven programs not only across the US but across the globe. While the exact shape that those dreams will take will certainly unfold over time, I feel more confident than ever before that the entire Huntington family, which is our system, can achieve them.