He's Trying For A Class Operation With Education, Day Care And More Goddard Schools Uses Qualified Teachers At Every Level. Now, Franchises Are Available.

Posted: October 10, 1994

Joseph Scandone spent years evaluating everything from Head Start programs to state colleges for the U.S. General Accounting Office, and years more working for General Electric.

In 1986, he put his experience to work in the Goddard School, a Willistown child-care center.

But it was a friendship he made in high school, when he worked part time in an accounting department, that came in handy when he wanted to expand his business. He turned for advice to his old boss, Anthony Martino.

Martino, 61, happens to be one of the gurus of the franchising world, a man who started and sold Aamco, then created Maaco Enterprises and built it into a 450-franchise automobile-painting and -repair operation with sales of $300 million a year.

Martino liked Scandone's system for providing upscale child care with degreed teachers at every level and thought it could be duplicated, the acid test for success in franchising.

So in 1989, Goddard Schools became a division of Maaco Enterprises, a division jointly owned by the two men. It has since grown to 14 child-care centers in three states with a combined enrollment of 1,000 children. Nine more centers are on the drawing boards.

"There are not many franchises that can say that in their first five years they have not had a failure and all the schools are profitable," Scandone said.

Scandone, 45, runs Goddard Schools from Maaco Enterprises' King of Prussia offices.

Now, the division is expanding its scope and will move to a turn-of-the- century, Pennsylvania-stone school on a tree-lined road in Glen Mills, Delaware County. The building once housed the Thornbury Elementary School.

Goddard has opened a child-care center at the site and plans to provide an after-school program and a summer camp for older children, with a swimming pool, playing fields and nature trails on 15 acres.

Maaco is in a market crowded with mom-and-pop operations, multimillion-

dollar corporations and everything in between, all trying to capitalize on the growing market for child care in a nation where three out of every four women work full or part time and the bumper crop of 4.2 million babies born in 1990 is still in preschool.

"Some of the large chains went to the Taj Mahal concept, with very large buildings and swimming pools," Scandone said. "They were an utter failure

because the very wealthy have nannies and au pairs."

Goddard targeted two-income families earning $50,000 to $75,000, but has found markets within markets.

"There are two groups we hadn't counted on," Scandone said. "One is the nursery-school clan that doesn't need day care, but who have the child here for socialization and education. They come in their Saabs and tennis dresses at 9:30 a.m. and are back at noon.

"The other group is more surprising - grandparents. We have a good number of working-class or single parents whose children are subsidized for the difference between day care and Goddard by their grandparents." In the Philadelphia area, Goddard generally charges $650 a month to care for infants and $500 a month to care for preschoolers from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What the grandparents and parents are willing to pay extra for is a system of year-round care with daily written reports to parents on each child, and regular monitoring of everything from the level of sand in the sandbox (eight inches or else) to diapering techniques, summarized in 35-page reports by roving quality-control inspectors.

That kind of scrutiny is important, said Susan du Pont, Goddard's senior operations manager. She would like to see more government scrutiny.

"In my mind, regulation is very lenient because government agencies have a tremendous workload, not only monitoring centers but homes," she said. "As far as our government is concerned, it has not been a priority, although it will become one."

Goddard's business is growing as the children it serves grow. Children who attend the schools stay an average of 30 months, with some going on to Goddard's private kindergartens.

For years, Goddard has run summer camps for children up to age nine. The new Glen Mills camp will go up a notch to include 9-to-12-year-olds. Their parents will continue to drop the children off at one of six Goddard schools in the western suburbs. Goddard will bus them the rest of the way, keeping the parents' routines the same.

About 30 percent of the schools are owned by Maaco. Franchises cost $170,000 "and change," fully equipped, Scandone said. Corporate ownership is important, he said, " because we're not selling hamburgers, we're taking care of children, and it's important to know day-to-day operations. The only way to do it is to run one of your own."

Maaco's administrative savvy and financial clout have given Goddard an edge on the competition. "Over the last several years, with banking and real estate being so difficult, Maaco has invested in the real estate program to keep the ball rolling," Scandone said.

Maaco itself has been able to survive the recession nicely, said Mark Martino, executive vice president of the chain and Anthony Martino's son. "We have had four of our best years in a row. When people aren't buying cars, they are taking better care of their cars. When they are buying cars, we do a lot of work for dealers who are getting cars traded in."

As for Goddard, the pace of growth is slower than it might be with other products because getting site approval in the upscale communities it prefers is sometimes a lengthy process. In fact, Scandone fought Willistown Township all the way up to the state Supreme Court to get approval for expanding his first school.

Now, the chain is heading west, with plans for schools in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.

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