Joe Mignano

New Horizons franchise review: Joe Mignano of Upstate New York

Mignano manages four New Horizons territories in Upstate New York.

Joe Mignano knows a good deal when he sees one. Or four good deals, as the case may be. Since 2014, Logical Operations, a commercial training textbook publisher, has acquired four training businesses and now operates them as New Horizons franchise locations in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. As for how he learned about New Horizons, they were his biggest customer. Mignano shares his story in this New Horizons franchise review.

When did your company become a New Horizons franchisee?

In 2014, we acquired the Rochester franchise, which was a family-run business at the time. In 2017, we acquired an older business out in Buffalo called Campus Link. It took us about six to nine months to convert it into a New Horizons franchise. And then in late 2018, we acquired the rights to the Syracuse and Albany New Horizons locations from corporate after the previous owner got out of the business.

You’re saying “we,” referring to your company Logical Operations. What kind of company is it? And how did you come across New Horizons?

Logical Operations is a textbook publisher. We make textbooks that are used by commercial training providers like New Horizons all over the world. 

When we design our textbooks, ideally we would have experience running the training classes on our own so that we can make sure the textbooks are the highest quality possible. We knew that we wanted to offer training at Logical Operations, but we didn’t want to compete with all of our training center customers. So our thought process was, “Let’s become a New Horizons.” We knew it would help us strategically.

Who is your competition?

Thanks to investing in New Horizons, we can still have a training delivery business and now get to use the courseware that we design at Logical Operations directly in a classroom. We still get to do that, and we really don’t compete with any of our other customers. 

There aren’t a whole lot of commercial training providers in Upstate New York. We compete against national competitors because they have no territory restrictions, but we essentially have the ability to run classes on our own without really competing with any of our customers in a meaningful way. Plus, we obviously operate a training business, so we get additional revenue and profit related to the training center.

Clearly, you were familiar with New Horizons. You obviously thought well of the company and its potential as an investment.

Absolutely. We decided to invest in New Horizons because we believe we can make more money, quite frankly. We believe it’s worth paying the royalty fees that we pay. So, yes, there’s this altruistic idea of not competing with our general customers, but we also thought we would be more successful if we joined the New Horizons brand.

How do you stand out in the marketplace?

The best way we stand out is, No. 1, we actually have facilities in all four of our markets. There’s a real office that you can go to, so that’s how we compete against national competitors. Granted, that’s less of a differentiator in the world of COVID, but in a normal year, that’s usually where we get differentiation.

No. 2, we have trainers in all the markets. We actually offer instructor-led, traditional, classroom-based training on  a regular basis which allows us. to deliver at least some portion of our portfolio in a traditional classroom setting. 

And then No. 3, just being part of New Horizons in general, we have a very large virtual schedule and we can offer a ton of classes as a New Horizons without us having to invest in all the trainer resources to make it happen. It’s pretty nice being part of the New Horizons system because you can offer classes that you likely wouldn’t have been able to otherwise if you were just a mom-and-pop type shop.

Even though you sort of lose the physical advantages of having those facilities during COVID, you also had another built-in advantage in that it was pretty seamless for you to pivot to doing everything online because of the nature of the company.

Right. We were doing virtual training long before COVID, and we’ve been doing it for 10to 15 years. So when COVID happened, it’s just a bigger percentage of our business moved to virtual delivery versus traditional classroom training. I don’t even consider it a pivot. It was literally just very easy to say, “Hey, we can still offer training virtually. Class is Monday.” To us, it wasn’t an interruption.

What kinds of clients do you have?

In our market, we are all B2B, so we serve mostly medium-sized to large businesses. The joke I always give is a business typically has to have four walls and a computer. As long as it has four walls and a computer, it’s a target.

More realistically, if it’s an organization that has 100 employees or they have their own internal IT group, then they’re a target customer of ours. It’s not industry-specific. It really is as simple as how big is this business and whether or not they believe in training and educating their people. 

What does your typical day look like?

I serve two masters. Number one, I’m the person that interacts with anything New Horizons corporate related. So whether that’s the virtual schedule, whether that’s franchise agreements, whether that’s products and programs or marketing-type efforts, I’m basically the front person for our franchise group interacting with New Horizons corporate.

And from a local management perspective, I manage the sales team, the operations team and the trainers. We’re a pretty autonomous group. I have a strong Operations lead that keeps the day-to-day moving. Our sales reps are all fairly experienced, so they know what’s expected of them and what they need to do on a daily basis.

What are some of the most valuable things that HQ has done to support you?

Well, No. 1, HQ manages the national schedule of virtual classes that all of the franchise groups sell into; they manage how many instances of a particular course show up on the schedule so we can control the run rate and scale to support market demand. They approve of various classes to actually go up on that schedule. If it’s not on the schedule in New Horizons’ world, it probably isn’t a very popular class.

One of the best things that New Horizons corporate has done for us is cultivating relationships with various vendors. So we’re a VMware-authorized training center, we’re a Cisco-authorized training center, we’re a Microsoft-authorized training center. You can go down the list. And to one of my earlier points, I wouldn’t be able to really offer VMware or Cisco-authorized classes without that partnership that’s managed and maintained by New Horizons at the corporate level. 

Some products and programs that New Horizons has designed on its own really are differentiators in our markets as well. One example is the CLD program, the Center for Leadership and Development, which is very high-end business skills course offerings. In the IT world, the CLD program is extremely unique. Most other national competitors in the IT space don’t really have anything like that program.

What would you say is the most rewarding thing about operating a New Horizons franchise?

For us, the most rewarding part is being a good partner to a specific business and helping them in more ways than one. The repeat business is rewarding because it shows us that, hey, we did a good job that first time and really are a valued partner for this business.

What kind of experience do you think someone needs to be successful with New Horizons?

In general, they should be familiar with or interested in technology. To be most successful, you should have some experience or interest in this space, either as a salesperson or a trainer, or have some sort of knowledge of what it’s like to work in Training or an IT services business before you try to become an owner. 

What makes New Horizons a good investment as opposed to another brand?

The national schedule of virtual classes. I mean, in general we have pretty good scale because we have multiple franchise groups in multiple locations that are effectively selling into a global schedule. It allows us to run more classes. We have this analogy of comparing this to the airline industry, and it really is true. The more critical mass we have, the more flight routes we can add. It’s just that simple. I would hate to do this job not being part of the New Horizons network. I would hate to be in the industry not being part of the New Horizons network.

Is there anything else that you think potential franchise owners should know?

The thing that I would mention is, once you’re in the New Horizons family, you are sort of in the New Horizons family. There is good camaraderie and good respect for each territory that each of the franchise owners have. It’s very rare that someone either doesn’t respect the territory rules of conduct or rules of engagement between each other.

And in general, it really is true that we want everyone, all the franchise owners, to be successful in their territories. A big win in Phoenix, who has pumped a whole ton of enrollment in the system, will allow us to add more classes here in Rochester. The more successful everyone is the better off we all are.

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