THEN: 1987 Sales: $15 million
Some people are born overachievers. Consider John Katzman: By the age of 27, he had already started a business and begun franchising it--to the tune of $15 million in annual sales. His Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) preparation courses were helping thousands of teenagers ace the dreaded test. And the Princeton Review had begun to complement the classes with a line of SAT preparation books. Could it get any better than this?
NOW: 1996 Sales: $70 million
As a matter of fact, yes. The SAT books were just the beginning of what Katzman refers to as a "change in direction to a cross-media education company." The Princeton Review has added books and software to help kids make the transition from high school to college and from college to graduate school. And, of course, it's still offering its staple--the SAT prep courses, now available year-round in 65 cities at 600 locations across the country. Also in the works: courses aimed at helping students pass licensing tests (for example, helping medical school students pass boards) and classes for professionals looking to change careers.
How does a 21-year-old start a business that, only 16 years later, boasts sales of $70 million? Katzman got invaluable help from a Washington, DC, franchise attorney who taught him not only the legal side of franchising but the ethical side as well. As a result, says Katzman proudly, "we're one of the few franchisors that have never been in court with a franchisee."
And while students may find cramming for exams a bit of a drag, boredom has never been a problem for Katzman. "Over the years, we've hit our plateaus, but we've managed to work our way through them," he says. "The business has changed enough to keep me interested. There's always a next peak." There's only one way to describe both Katzman's personality and his report-card history: Type A.