Franchise Players: How I Turned Military Lessons Into Business Success
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This article was originally published on March 6, 2014.
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Wilson has spent five of the last 10 years serving tours in Iraq and Afghanistan in the U.S. Army. However, he’s still had time for franchising, owning a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchise and recently launching a moving franchise called You Move Me. Participating in the military taught Wilson to work with established systems, operate under stress and trust his personal drive and intelligence. The result: he did close to $1 million in sales during his first year as a You Move Me franchisee.
Name: Andrew and Krista Wilson
Franchise owned (location): You Move Me in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla.
How long you have owned the franchise?
With my military background in the United States Army, becoming a franchise owner was an appealing option given the similarities between the military and franchising. In the Army for every unit or position you hold, you’re not the first person to do it. There are established systems that you need to follow in order to be successful, just like in franchising. I knew my strengths were in driving sales and relationship building to grow ay business, not designing systems, manuals, uniforms, marketing materials and so on. The reason I love franchising is the fact that I don’t have to invent the wheel, just make it go faster.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
From 2002 to 2012 I did several tours in Afghanistan, both in the United States Army where I served as an infantry officer and as a civilian working on counter insurgency programs. During this time, I owned a 1-800-GOT-JUNK? franchise in Kansas City, but had a business partner to manage the day to day operations.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
When the founder of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Brian Scudamore decided to start a moving franchise, I jumped at the chance to get in on the ground-floor. I believed in his vision to bring professionalism and exceptional customer service to an industry that has been lacking both. I loved the fact that You Move Me set out to make the painful experience of moving almost fun. Small touches like morning coffee service (because the coffeemaker is already packed!), a housewarming plant at the end of your move and a wardrobe box that doubles as a kids’ fort are ways that we’re achieving our customer service standard. For me, becoming a You Move Me franchise partner is an amazing opportunity to be a part of building something that is changing an entire industry.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise fee - $45,000
Initial truck lease costs - $10,000 x 4 trucks = $40,000
Start-up marketing - $18,000
Training expenses - $2,500
Insurance - $3,500
Legal & business licenses - $2,000
Equipment (dollies, hand trucks, moving supplies, etc.) - $5,000
Working capital - $50,000
Total - $166,000
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I researched independent moving companies and compared their performance to other moving franchises in North America. I started to see that the fastest, most efficient way to build a business in this industry was to join a franchise system that had the infrastructure in place to support me. When you are an independent company you spend so much time developing systems and managing every detail of your business and this makes rapid growth very challenging.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Keeping up with how busy we were! The first year for a franchise is always tough and we figured that since we were a new brand that no one had heard of, it would be especially difficult to gain market share. Through a combination of marketing and leveraging our relationships in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, word spread quickly about our service and the response was overwhelming. We did close to 3,000 moves in our first year and one of our main challenges was not only finding employees, but finding the right employees that believe in our goal to bring exceptional customer service to the moving industry.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Owning a franchise can be a challenging but rewarding endeavor and it’s important to know exactly what it is you’re getting yourself into. Make sure you do extensive research before joining a franchise system and have a comprehensive plan for how you’re going to grow your business. A detailed financial strategy is essential. Be prepared to reinvest profits into growing your franchise for the first three years. It’s also critical to buy into a franchise where you will get the support systems you will need to be successful. I sometimes joke with my colleagues that the five years I spent deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan - to not very nice places like Ramadi and Kandahar - were less stressful than starting a business! Owning a franchise is a 24/7 commitment and the decision to do so should not be taken lightly.
What’s next for you and your business?
In 2013, we did close to $1 million in revenue between our locations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City which was a pretty impressive feat given it was our first year. In 2014 we are hoping to surpass $1 million and will then look at possibly expanding to a third location.