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 ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

Running a pet retail stores is enough to keep any person busy. Dave O'Brien manages to operate three Pet Supplies Plus locations while also serving in the U.S. National Guard. For O'Brien, being a franchisee means he can balance both business and military service. Here's how he does it.

Name: Dave O’Brien

Franchise owned (location): I own three Pet Supplies Plus locations in Minnesota (Bloomington, South Minneapolis, and Burnsville)

How long have you owned a franchise?

I converted my independent pet stores into Pet Supplies Plus franchise locations in 2001.

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Why franchising?

Owning three existing pet retail stores gave me a strong understanding and a passion for the industry. As a business decision to better position my current stores, I was looking for someone, other than myself, to keep up with product selection and sourcing without hiring personnel for the task. I found the support I was looking for in franchising.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

In addition to running my three independently owned pet stores, I was (and continue to be) an active member of the military. I joined the Army Reserve 1984 and transferred to the National Guard in 1995. Currently, I am an instructor pilot in the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter and also serve as the 34th Infantry Division (G3 Air) Tactical Operations Officer. In 2007, I was deployed to Iraq for a year as the Tactical Operations Officer for the 2-147 Assault Helicopter Battalion.

There are definitely times when it is hard to balance being active in the National Guard and running a business. I get by with general managers that I trust who can help to handle the day-to-day tasks.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

Pet Supplies Plus is the largest pet retail franchise and prides itself on not only being a trustworthy neighborhood pet center but a trustworthy franchise system. I first experienced this when I had an in-person meeting with company executives more than 10 years ago. I appreciated that the president of the company at the time was personally involved in stores and had skin in the game. I continue to see this core value in many of the corporate decisions made by Pet Supplies Plus.  

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

Since I converted independent locations into franchise locations, the investment was not typical. Investment levels for Pet Supplies Plus range from about $500,000 - $600,000.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

I did most of my research through discussions with the executive team at Pet Supplies Plus. They were extremely helpful and accessible. 

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

Unexpected challenges are inevitable. When converting my pet stores to franchise locations, I had the opportunity to completely switch vendors, which came with its own set of challenges but has since streamlined my business.

What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?

It is important to be able to trust your business partners and colleagues, but if you have any doubts, it doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion to verify.

What’s next for you and your business?

I am currently assessing options while I strive to make my three current stores as successful as possible. The $55.7 billion pet industry has been proven to be essentially recession-proof and only projected to continue growing. Pet Supplies Plus has also recently strengthened its infrastructure to support franchise growth and there are more opportunities for me to develop as a multi-unit owner.

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