Ashley Gundlach, Director of Marketing for British Swim School, Enters Franchising with a Splash!
Name: Ashley Gundlach
Brand: British Swim School
Title: Director of Marketing
Years in franchising: 1 year, 8 months
What attracted you to franchising?
I come from an agency background, and while I loved working with our clients, the politics within their organizations sometimes got in the way of really great marketing. With franchising, both parties – the franchisor and the franchisee – are working toward the same goals, so collaboration and shared accountability are critical to meeting those goals. It’s such a unique relationship – one that you don’t see in many industries.
What was your first job in franchising?
The one I’m in, as Director of Marketing for British Swim School! That said, the experience of coming into an organization shortly after it was acquired by a multi-brand company (Buzz Franchise Brands), followed by the challenge of marketing during a pandemic, makes it feel like I’ve been in franchising for much longer.
What do you attribute your success to?
Relationships I’ve built over the past 15 years, a strong worth ethic, and an innate sense of curiosity. I also have a way of finding inspiration in strange places for new marketing campaigns – for example, from an app my preschooler plays and the Masters Tournament. You never know where the next great idea will be!
What challenges and obstacles have you overcome in your career?
My first role out of college wasn’t well defined, and to make matters worse, my manager was in another state and relatively disengaged. My “official” workload wasn’t nearly enough to fill my time, so I created ad hoc projects for myself to stay busy. As someone just entering the professional world, it was incredibly hard to stay motivated so I was thrilled when a new, dynamic manager came in a few months later. Later on, I worked with several large political committees and candidates on national fundraising campaigns, which is not for the weak of heart! Raising millions of dollars in a few short months equated to an incredible level of pressure and personal sacrifices that weren’t sustainable. Let’s just say I’m much happier to watch politics from my couch these days!
Describe your journey to your current position.
I started in marketing analytics, working for a large corporation. This provided a great foundation of data-driven decision making that is required for smart strategy. From there I moved to the agency world for the next 11 years, starting in an entry-level role and moving up through the ranks to a VP role. While there, I managed a wide variety of clients, large and small, and also served on the leadership team of the company. That firsthand experience of running a business translated nicely to my current role supporting our franchisees. The opportunity to join the British Swim School team came at a great time. I was eager to work “inside” a company versus managing projects from the outside, and it was obvious from my first interview that this was a team of really smart, driven, fun, nice people, all working toward a fantastic mission of preventing childhood drownings. It was really a dream come true!
What are your future career goals?
There’s still so much to learn about franchising. So in the short term, I’m focused on soaking up everything I can to drive the British Swim School brand to the next level. We’re growing quickly across the U.S. and Canada, so I anticipate the next few years will be devoted to updating our systems and approach to fully support both our owners and our franchise recruitment efforts. Beyond that, the sky’s the limit, but I definitely intend to stay in franchising!
Advice to young female executives in franchising
Be direct in your communication! I’ve seen many young professionals create confusion or waste time as a result of simply not saying what they mean to say, for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. But directness and kindness are mutually exclusive: there’s a way to have difficult conversations while also being considerate. It just takes practice!
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