“Inaccurate” – JUMP! Swim Schools founder and CEO slams allegations of wrong-doing
JUMP! Swim Schools founder and CEO Ian Campbell has emphatically denied recent allegations of franchisee exploitation and contractor underpayment reported in the media.
In early January, A Current Affair and the Sydney Morning Herald reported some JUMP! franchisees had been left in debt and without an operating site despite paying rent for more than two years.
Speaking with Inside Franchise Business, Campbell refuted the reports, instead revealing that there are a number of sector-specific challenges and regulations that dictate the opening of a site.
“That report is inaccurate,” Campbell told Inside Franchise Business. “We are very transparent about the ongoing process for franchisees and the timeline estimates. These timeframes are beyond our control and are dependent on a number of variables.
“We are at the mercy of a variety of third parties, which is then unfortunately passed on to our franchisees. It is always hard for us to indicate exact timeframes, sometimes this can be done on the precedents within similar locations and previous dealings but there really is no concrete timeframe.”
According to Campbell about 95 per cent of JUMP!’s franchisees sign on without a premise, with the franchisor then tasked with finding a suitable location.
“We select a site primarily at the direction of the franchisee, although we do run our own assessments to ensure it is a permissible of use of the site given the local planning laws,” Campbell said.
“We can only offer franchisees what’s available on the market and each location has different opportunities and council expectations, so there are a range of advantages and disadvantages in each area. We don’t warrant any approvals by third parties such as local councils as in our experience these rarely take into account a number of variables and as there is a greater level of assessment than you would find in a traditional retail model. There is a lot more regulation.”
Campbell said JUMP!’s willingness to work transparently with franchisees in order to navigate approvals and arrange the Development Application lodgement, building permits and associated trades and contractors simplified the initial start-up process.
It’s a stark contradiction to allegations made by Scott Marks, owner of construction company Reliabuild Group, which was brought on by JUMP! to build elements of the brand’s Browns Plains school in Queensland.
“We were contracted to build a deck around the pool, we weren’t installing the pool itself, however we were part of the project management and timing of the build,” Marks told Inside Franchise Business.
“We coordinated a lot of the trades, a couple of the trades JUMP! organised, mainly the plumbers, however there was a bit of an issue with invoices in that respect. JUMP! thought we were paying the plumber and to save argument, we paid, which was around $10,000. The swim school still owes us $15,000 on top so it’s around $25,000 that they owe. They have paid around $50,000 in total already.”
After repeated efforts to recover the missing payments, Marks said he and the Reliabuild commercial manager organised a meeting with JUMP! head office, which was attended by the group’s CFO.
“We put together a payment plan, which they agreed to verbally and the CFO sent it to me in an email a day or two later, which outlined a total of five planned payments. JUMP! made two payments and then stopped. We chased it up again, and were sent a revised payment plan, and we haven’t seen anything since,” Marks said.
According to Marks, the lack of communication from JUMP! has forced his hand, with the Park Ridge-based builder lodging proceedings at the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
“I lodged the application at the back end of December, JUMP! had 21 days to respond, which they haven’t done yet. Just today, I lodged an application for decision by default, which in turn means that because JUMP! never responded, we’re assuming that they aren’t contesting the amount they owe us and we’re relying on the QCAT to demand payment for us.”
JUMP! Swim Schools’ Ian Campbell however, said the company was preparing an appeal.
“We are confident in our position on this dispute and it is currently under appeal. We believe that the payment delivery of the project did not align with the initial agreements and have defended our position via legal process,” Campbell said.
While the recent reports have thrown JUMP! under the microscop, Campbell remained confident that the brand’s existing franchisees would continue to support the model.
“I am incredibly proud of the level of support we have received recently with many of our franchisees reaching out to reassure us of their support of our business,” Campbell said.
“Our franchisees are our biggest priority in this process and in circumstances when franchisees are in financial distress, we have an internal process that allows them to seek financial assistance and ensure we’re operating in good faith as required by the code.”