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This Swim School's Model Makes Life Easy for Franchisees Matt Lane and Paul Gerrard tested the waters before franchising SafeSplash, and it's been making waves ever since.

By David Port

This story appears in the June 2016 issue of Start Up.

Safesplash Swim School
Pool boy: SafeSplash Swim School cofounder Matt Lane.

The more Matt Lane and Paul Gerrard mulled over how to reinvent the franchise business concept, the clearer it became to the two former HP execs that the systems that had seen success in the tech world could be applied to franchising. The duo launched SafeSplash Swim School in Colorado in 2005 but only started franchising it in 2014 after they proved to themselves that their business model could be replicated nationwide.

"We challenged ourselves to try to find analogies, ideas that work in other industries to bring into our model," Lane says. The amalgamation gelled into a highly successful franchise model (ranked No. 54 on Entrepreneur's 2016 list of fastest-growing franchises), with 86 U.S. locations, contracts to open another 59 and a deal with Sports World -- Mexico's largest operator of fitness facilities -- to launch 40 schools south of the border starting this year.

The secret sauce? Retaining in-house control over key back-office functions and time sucks that many franchises typically -- and often, readily -- hand over to their franchisees. To wit: The founders built an online booking platform that all franchises use, along with a centralized reservation system that matches instructors with students based on their teaching and learning profiles, allowing students to stick with a favorite instructor as they advance through various levels at the school.

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