Thursday, August 15, 2013

Rainbow Station China CEO, Paul Pan

Paul Pan, CEO of Rainbow Station China, has had an extensive, 30-year career in finance, investment banking and entrepreneurship. Paul’s professional life started in the United States where he worked for top financial institutions, such as Wells Fargo Bank and Charles Schwab, in the business-development and securities-analysis sectors. After receiving his MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management in 2000, Paul returned to China and worked at Deloitte as a senior manager of corporate finance before becoming the general manager of strategic management at D’LONG. In 2005, his entrepreneurial journey truly began when he became the CEO of Carpenter Tan (HK List CO. #00837), a position he held until 2007 when he became the CEO of iTour, an airline ticket and hotel reservation service.  In 2010, Paul founded and became the managing partner of Golden Capital Holdings Ltd., a private equity investment management company. 

Because both of Paul’s parents were educators in China, he has always had a strong passion and drive for early education. In the latter half of 2011, he began researching quality and premier child education concepts in the U.S., which is when he found Rainbow Station. After completing market research, visiting with Gail and Earl Johnson and seeing a Rainbow Station campus first-hand, he was struck by the brand’s innovative curriculum and experienced leadership team. He quickly jumped on board, and in 2012, he became CEO of Rainbow Station China. He opened the first campus, which now has more than 60 students, in Shenzhen, China in January of 2013 and has plans to add over 110 units throughout China.  

How did you first learn of Rainbow Station? Complete your due diligence?
I began looking into early education programs in China about two years ago. At the time, the first wave of early education was near its end in China, and the second wave was beginning to take off. After completing extensive research on Rainbow Station and meeting with Gail and Earl Johnson, I realized I had the perfect opportunity to bring their unique brand and curriculum to China.

I was taught in both China and the U.S. and am a father of several children who are growing up and being educated in two countries with vast differences in culture, values, education systems and goals. Thus, I am dedicated to bring the Rainbow Station preschool concept and experience into China. It is extremely important to me to offer a better early education alternative for children in China, and to bring the interactive way of teaching and methodology that Rainbow Station provides to children here. 

What kind of challenges have you experienced with bringing the brand to China?
I think it is difficult to balance both the American and Chinese schools of thought and integrate them together. In China, there is a huge emphasis on exams and test taking because the results are quantifiable. With Rainbow Station, we are trying to figure out ways to quantify the thought process for parents to demonstrate the upward growth that each child has.
Right now, most parents see Rainbow Station as an American school with an American curriculum and way of thinking, while at the same time their children learn English. English is a desirable side benefit. This is a much better approach than directly offering an English-language learning program.  

We are an American brand with a unique curriculum and a rich history. This combination really sets Rainbow Station apart. I chose Rainbow Station not only because of the experience in education that Gail had, but also because of the “Leader in Me” program from Steven Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” that she had implemented system wide. In China, everyone wants to get ahead of each other. The Seven Habits philosophy develops and enhances a child’s leadership skills, which is something that is very important to parents.

What makes Rainbow Station different?
The Rainbow Station vision is aligned directly with my own. When I looked at Rainbow Station, I thought, “this is what I want to do, and this is what I want my school to be.” I think Rainbow Station is different because it puts such an emphasis on cultural diversity, integrity and individual ownership. Of course, we are a for-profit business, but I felt that Rainbow Station was about so much more than making money. I truly want to be able to offer this education system to all Chinese children because I really believe in its mission, vision and values, as well as the brand’s enormous potential for success.

Why is China a good market for Rainbow Station and child education and development?
One of the most important things when starting a new business is the partner you have, and I have the right one. Gail, Earl and the Rainbow Station team all share the same mission, vision and passion that I do for early childhood education.

Additionally, the Chinese market has a lot of opportunity because of the recent economic growth and the expansion in the amount of disposable income the middle class has. In China, after a family has a house, they concentrate on using their disposable income to educate their children, for medical treatments and to save money for retirement. For parents, children’s education is becoming an even larger priority.  

What challenges have you overcome, either in your personal life or career, to get to where you are today?
I have experienced many challenges in my life but I always look towards the future and think about the Seven Habits. I also think it is extremely important to learn from my mistakes. When I set a goal, I never give up. That being said, I have to make sure my goal is attainable, achievable, and within my capacity.  I also always develop an action plan based off my goal.

What are your development plans for China?
I would like to have five schools by the end of next year, including three corporate locations. I plan on our second school being the model for other franchise locations. Ideally, I would like to open 200 units over the next five years.

Do you have any interesting hobbies or passions?

I really enjoy watching U.S. movies. When I lived in the U.S., I used to go to the theater every week! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Franchisee Spotlight: John Sims

John Sims, 42, has recently opened his first Rainbow Station franchise in Richmond, Va.

Sims graduated from Old Dominion University (ODU) with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Bachelor of Arts in English.  For over 20 years, during college and afterwards, Sims worked for the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) operating recreational facilities, including water parks, golf courses and other enterprises. Sims started as a lifeguard with NVRPA while in college.  During the off-season, he worked as a seasonal/hourly Park Ranger, then a part-time supervisor, and eventually was hired on as a full-time Park Ranger.  From there, he moved up to an Assistant Park Manager position, and finally to the senior position of Park Manager.

In the spring of 2012, Sims left his job to use his skills and experience working for himself.  “I've pretty much done it all... hiring, training, managing, accounting, and marketing.  I wanted to put those skills to use for myself.”

Now, Sims is applying that professional experience to operate his first Rainbow Station franchise in Richmond, Va.

How did you learn about the brand?
While networking around Richmond to find the right business for me and my family, I heard about Rainbow Station. I asked around and did some research, and the more I looked into it, the more I liked it.  It turned out that a Rainbow Station franchise was the perfect fit for us.

Why did you choose an opportunity with Rainbow Station?
Besides the financial aspects of the operation, it just seemed like a good business to get into.  Rainbow Station is an organization that pursues excellence, supports its stakeholders and provides a great service.

Additionally, I am very passionate about the education industry and have always been drawn to teaching.  I've been a shooting instructor with the parks, taught rock climbing at a gym and also worked as a substitute teacher in public schools. Throughout my career with the parks, one of my favorite times of year was the spring, when I was able to train new employees. I've always enjoyed passing on the knowledge and skills that I've gained. I know that I can go to work for many years to come, and always feel passionate about what I'm doing.

What challenges have you overcome to get where you are now?
The biggest challenge was making the transition in careers. Having 20 years seniority and security in my job made it hard to leave.  Having three children, I knew that the stress and uncertainty of quitting that job to go into business would be one of the most difficult things I could do.  Now that I've done it, I know it was worth it.

What are your expansion or development plans? What is your end goal with Rainbow Station?
My current goal is to increase enrollment. The way to do this is to produce an excellent service and be on the cutting edge of the industry. In the future, I’d like to acquire a second location.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or passions?

I try to involve my kids in everything I do, so my hobbies and interests lean towards kid-friendly activities.  These days we mostly spend our free time in the outdoors: hiking, canoeing, skiing and camping.  I also enjoy rock climbing, shooting and just reading somewhere quiet.