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Is a Kumon Franchise a Good Career Choice or Business Decision? So, you’re contemplating a possible career as a Kumon franchisee and opening a Kumon Center.

You’re likely thinking that you’d like to make a difference in some children’s lives while earning a living income. After a number of years as a Kumon Franchisee, I learned that neither of the above-stated aspirations could be further from the achievable truth. As educational programs go, the Kumon Math & Reading programs are far less effective than could be expected. They have rarely been objectively critiqued.

The reason for this is that no one fact checks what the Kumon programs actually deliver when compared with credible educational programs. Back to your need to earn a ‘living income’; you’ll discover that this is very difficult to achieve. While this might’ve been possible in the early days of the corporation’s presence in North America (in the early to mid 1980s, and through the 1990s), new policies and guidelines set in place by the corporation circa 2007 – including the need to lease a commercial location for a business that operates between seven and 14 hours a week – renders a living income virtually impossible to realize. With a more than 25% royalty Franchise Fee on every student, you’ll find yourself a distant fourth on the list of monthly payees … behind the franchisor, your landlord, and your staff.

There were many changes made to the ‘Operations Manual’ document during my tenure as a Kumon franchisee that had a net negative financial impact on my business’ bottom line. The Kumon Franchise Agreement – to begin with – is unreasonably-punitive in favour of the franchisor, and suggests that the corporation’s perspective of new Kumon franchisees is as employees who are eager to commit a significant financial investment to further the corporation’s global expansion. Like many other Kumon franchisees who simply shutter their Centers and walk away (or are forced out), the corporation did not allow me to sell my business to earn any goodwill from the time and effort I’d expended helping to build their brand. While my Center was tithed to someone who had signed an agreement to purchase it (the Kumon Center sale process is very unorthodox, and the corporate practice is for Centers to be so-termed ‘Transferred’ – rather than ‘Sold’ – to another operator), the purchaser was told by Kumon to not make a down-payment for my Center, all the while being trained – at another location – on how to operate a Kumon Center.

The corporation also rebuked interest from at least two other parties to purchase my business, citing that I “had nothing to sell”. The prospective buyers alerted me to this via Email correspondence. By contrast, at the same time as my Kumon Center was listed for sale, another local after-school education franchisor allowed their franchisee to sell that business. As if to double-down on their role as a corporate bully, Kumon sent me communication as a reminder of my responsibility to afford them ‘goodwill’ after they closed my Center and enabled another franchisee to re-open it.

This type of corporate slight of hand (referred to as a classic ‘end around’ by my legal counsel team) exposes frailties in corporate and franchising legal frameworks that can evidently be taken advantage of by an ill-intentioned party in a business agreement. Don’t expect support from any individual or organization representing itself as a Kumon franchisee association either. The person presented as the sole point of contact for a Kumon franchisee association for a number of years also served as an appointed member of the franchisor’s advisory council … until it was pointed out that this represented a glaring and unequivocal conflict of interest. Before I operated a Kumon franchise, I regarded Japanese society as honorable and trustworthy.

Sadly, documentation – including Email communication – about Kumon’s business acumen – and the way it deals with its franchisees – has led to a profoundly-negative and darkening effect on this perspective.

In closing, you’d be best advised to stay well away from entering into a business relationship with Kumon. Any other business venture would be a better idea, as you would be inviting significant stress, unhappiness, and financial uncertainty into your life as a Kumon franchisee.

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