After Barbara Gallo's children start their school day, she focuses on her other kids--students of her Computertots/Computer Explorers franchise. She starts by checking messages, e-mails and the online bulletin boards around 8:30 a.m. from her home office in Beacon Falls, Connecticut.
Gallo, 41, decided on the tech education franchise because of her background in early childhood development and her computer skills. More important, the franchise allows her to spend more time at home with her kids, something her former job did not. Today, Gallo is stopping work early to attend her daughter's track meet; other days, she's able to enjoy her pastimes of horseback riding and running.
While she swears no day is the same, today, she's taking care of work primarily in her office, as she does three days a week. She calls day-care centers or schools, mails preliminary information to directors of organizations interested in meeting with her, and writes proposals for those who've already agreed to add Computertots to their curriculum.
When she's not in the office, Gallo spends her whole day cold calling. After mapping out a number of day-care centers or schools, Gallo drives to the locations and talks to the directors about Computertots. "I just stop by to keep my name out there," she says.
Occasionally, one of her eight regu-lar teachers is unable to teach a class. If Gallo can't find a suitable substitute, she packs up her laptop, software and handouts, and heads to the facility to teach it herself. Each Computertots franchisee needs to know how to teach all the classes offered.
Gallo doesn't have a teacher to handle some of the more technical after-school or camp programs like robotics, so she just plans on teaching them herself. "You really have to know what you're doing, know the program and be able to manage a classroom of 10 to 15 kids," says Gallo, who offers more than 20 different classes a week at 25 different locations. The basic Computertots class runs a half-hour, while after-school programs and summer camps may be several hours a day for a week, or once a week in a multiweek session.
Gallo's husband, Greg, bought the franchise with her, but continues to work for the state of Connecticut and as a part-time police officer. At 46, he's preparing for retirement, but the couple is waiting for their franchise to be more financially secure before Greg devotes himself to it full time. Meanwhile, he's helping out in his off hours. He processes credit card payments and checks, and before the monthly teacher/staff meetings, Greg organizes the paperwork to hand out and the software programs the teachers need for their classes. Both husband and wife work on organizing which programs to run at different locations. When they offer their summertime camp programs, including the robotics class, Greg will get the robotics sets organized. "It's kind of crazy," muses Barbara Gallo. "You do things you don't think you're going to do when you buy the business."
Today, Gallo finishes work around 5 p.m. But sometimes she has to head back into her office after dinner and work a few more hours. Still, Gallo helps her children with homework or projects before going back to work, creating a good balance between her work and family life. Says Gallo, "They know they can reach me if they need to, but they also understand if the door is closed, I'm working."
Organization is key for her and any Computertots franchisee. While franchisees may need to play the part of teacher, a business background is helpful, especially when it comes to marketing. Now she's working with fellow franchisees in her state to promote Computertots and sees that in teaching others, she's learned a lot as well.