A business that realises ambition and provides work-life balance…that’s the Puddle Ducks difference.
Just like our children, a Puddle Ducks franchise is completely unique. It’s an investment that allows you to change not only your and your family's lives but the lives of the children you teach.
Most of our Franchisees start off teaching in the water, so they can fully immerse themselves in the product and truly understand their customers but ultimately, the aim is for you to manage a team of teachers, taking ownership of your own territory.
We’ll be there to help every step of the way. It’s up to you how quickly you go from dipping your toes in to diving in at the deep end.
Providing an essential life-skill to babies and children and a wonderful bonding experience between parents/carers and their little ones is why Puddle Ducks was conceived. The priority has always been to do things right and this is at the core of the Franchise offering. Everything we do is underpinned with the desire to operate at the highest standards, whether it be our 100% child-led swimming programme or our multi-award winning franchise operation. As a franchisee, you can always be confident in the knowledge that the success of your business and the continued success of the national brand is at the heart of everything we do.
Puddle Ducks is the only national swim school that offers classes from bump through to 10 years of age and all of our teachers are STA qualified. One of the UK’s top experts in teaching swimming continually develops our classes with her team, ensuring the structure and content is ahead of the game.
Our teachers undergo 300 hours of training, in and out of the pool, to ensure they reach the very highest standards. Read more about what it takes to become a Puddle Ducks teacher here.
Awards and Recognition
We are very proud of all our awards – they not only recognise the unparalled expertise that you have at your fingertips or the brilliance of the people who would be your peers and colleagues, they are also proof everything we stand for. As one of only two UK based Franchisors to achieve 5 Star Franchisee Satisfaction six years running, our Franchisees have said it all for us.
Innovation is key to staying ahead of the competition and relevant in today’s digital world. Puddle Ducks has never stood still and ideas come from right the way through the network, from local teams to Head Office. We never innovate for the sake of it, every development has to satisfy several criteria and always improve the lives of our customers and our Franchisees and reflect positively on the brand.
Examples of ground breaking innovations over the last few years include:
Swimming Programme Development
Ali Beckman, our Technical Director, Trustee on the STA Board, EWIF Overall Woman of the Year 2018 and one of the industry’s leading lights on child-led development in swimming has evolved the Baby & Pre-school lesson plans to run over 44 weeks of the year, increasing franchisee profitability and more sustained progression for our children whilst still giving our teachers 8 weeks off p.a. maintaining the work-life balance we promote.
In 2018, she overhauled our Baby & Pre-school programme. We now deliver a 100% child-led approach across all activities in our lessons but most importantly when it comes to submersions. All submersions are elective and our teachers have been through rigorous training to ensure they can read the signals, even from a tiny baby, and know whether or not that individual child wants to go underwater. Our babies, under 12 months old, choose to go underwater, imitating their parents’ face-dipping and most crucially, begin to initiate their own head-down swims, much earlier than with the previous programme. We are truly different in the industry, whilst our peers claim to be child-led also, we are the only ones to prove it by putting child welfare before profit and ceasing to operate underwater photoshoots. The nature of the photoshoots mean that babies are submerged, not just during the shoot but every week running up to the shoot to ensure the best photo possible. With the best will in the world, this cannot be elective on the part of the baby 100% of the time. By taking it out of the equation, our franchisees can be confident that they have the most technically and ethically advanced product on the market and our customers can be confident that we truly have their child’s best interests at heart. We want to ensure confidence in the water, leading to personal survival skills and a love of swimming. Read all about the Puddle Ducks Difference in our blog.
Ali also helped develop the STA Level 3 Diploma in Aquatic Teaching – Baby and Pre-School, the most advanced qualification in the industry today and she is one of the only tutors in the country.
Our Swim Academy (4-10 years) was reworked in 2017. Our Technical Team worked with a focus group of franchisees and senior teachers to move the programme from 4 to 6 levels, helping to improve profitability for franchisees. We rebranded the programme ‘Swim Academy’ based on consumer research and our communications for customers and prospects make clear the parallels between our programme and the STA and ASA based awards so that customers can see progression in relation to their peers who swim with leisure centres and understand the added value that Puddle Ducks provides.
PAS 520, a British Standards document for the Baby Swimming Industry was developed in 2015, the first of its kind. Puddle Ducks were consulted on the content of this document and we ensured that certain elements were reviewed and subsequently amended to ensure the protection of our Franchisees and other, smaller swim schools in the UK. You can read the full document here.
All 300+ of our teachers are trained in both Deaf Awareness and Attachment Awareness, opening up our lessons to the deaf community and adopted children and their parents, the only swim school in the UK to offer this.
In 2016, bespoke management software was rolled out network-wide, Shark. The system is designed to manage classes, customer records, take payments, organise waiting lists and class moves, record a child’s progress, provide management information and is fully integrated with our website links to our Xero accounting software. We initiated a SagePay ‘world first’; the ability to deliver payment to both the retail business and each individual franchisee’s bank account through a single online booking system.
The system is constantly being developed in line with a focus group of Franchisees and their on-the-ground team members.
Following customer research, we introduced monthly payments for our customers with the following advantages:
- Manageable, regular monthly payments for customers on the same day each month
- Improved cash flow for Franchisees
- Improved customer retention
We are the first independent swim school to roll this out across our whole network, making the brand experience the same wherever you swim with Puddle Ducks.
Our website uses one of the best-supported, open-source content management systems in the world, Umbraco. The site allows the franchisees to completely content manage their own ‘mini-sites’; guidelines from HQ ensure consistency. The website is fully integrated with Shark allowing all class and pool information to be accurately displayed online and all bookings and enquiries go straight into Shark providing greater efficiency in the office.
Customer feedback is very positive, ‘I chose you based on your website compared to your competitors. It was easy to use, contained lots of useful information and from this I took that you are a well organised and professional company’. Proof that we are achieving our goal of being the ‘informed choice’ for parents. Full training is provided and the site is being constantly evolved to stay up-to-date with regards to performance and user experience.
We launched the first national TV campaign by any independent swim school in December 2018. Using Sky Adsmart we have been able to specifically target our ideal audience with no wastage. The network reaction has been one of pride for the brand and excitement that we are once again, leading the way. The campaign is still running across various platforms but in January 2019 alone, we were able to match 1,000 new customers to households who had seen the TV ads. Due to the success, we plan to go back on air this year.
Minimum Performance Standards
We operate Minimum Performance Standards (MPS) across the network, driving customer sales and ensuring coverage throughout the whole network. Our management information shows every Franchisee exactly how each market they own is performing and where their efforts might be best directed in terms of pool sourcing and customer acquisition.
Pool Build and Management Support
With two pools now owned by franchisees in the network, pool-builds underway and several franchisees moving into investing and managing pools on behalf of pool owners and securing exclusive use via water-tight contracts, we are entering a new phase regarding the management and ownership of pools. We have fully-qualified experts at Head Office to support our franchisees with whatever model they want to employ, all with a view to making the business model more sustainable and giving the brand a strategic boost in the mind of the customer.
Network and HQ Support
Our Head Office team of speciaists cover Business Support, IT Support, Marketing, Retail, Pool Management, Technical and Finance. In addition to this, Head Office funds an insurance-backed HR service (which provides commercial advice for the entire network) and works closely with our Accountancy partners to ensure consistency and clarity across the network. We have the equivalent of 0.5 FTE per franchisee, amongst the highest in the franchising industry.
We believe communication within the network is the key driver for making sure our Franchisees feel involved and listened too. Channels of communication include weekly Franchisee Newsletters, monthly Whole Network Newsletters, Facebook forums for Franchisees, Marketing and Admin, a Shark Focus Group and Marketing Council. Annually, we hold a Franchisee Conference and Summer School, Franchisee Regional Meetings, Regional Marketing Meetings, Regional Technical Meetings, Business Health Checks and Technical Visits.
Plus our Head Office team is at the end of the phone or on email 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.
The peer-to-peer support in the network is highly valued by the Franchisees and we see lots of camaraderie, problem-solving, empathy and pride between our Franchisees.
Our retail offering further strenghtens our brand, offers our customers a convenient, quality solution for all their swimming lesson essentials and offers our Franchisees a chance to earn discount on their Management Service Fee based on sales of retail goods.
Nationally Recognised Brand
As a result of word of mouth and from the outbound marketing we do both nationally and locally, Puddle Ducks Franchisees benefit from being part of a nationally recognised, trusted and well-loved brand. Our national partnerships with Butlin's and NCT are testament to this. We also benefit from lots of media coverage both in the local and national press. Here are some examples of recent coverage: