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.
For some parents, working from home can be a game changer. With two daughters under the age of 3, Rick Werner wanted to find a business that used his sales skills and allowed him to work from home. Unishippers was the perfect fit, and after only about one year of business, Rick has earned over $75,000. Here's how he's done it.
Name: Rick Werner
Franchise owned: Unishippers, based in Auburn, Ala.
How long have you owned a franchise?
Franchising gives you the best of both worlds. You work for yourself, but you also have corporate backing and the support of the franchise system. Additionally, I have the flexibility to determine where I want to spend my time; whether that is with my kids, my wife, the company or personal time.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
After graduating with a degree in business management from Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Ala., I began working as a health insurance broker for JW Terrill in St. Louis, Mo. I worked there for 10 years. Prior to becoming a franchise owner, I worked for J. Smith Lanier, a commercial insurance broker agency located in in Opelika, Ala., doing account management work. I decided to leave my career to pursue the Unishippers franchise opportunity so I could run my own business and work from home.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I chose the Unishippers franchise because of the proven business model, residual income and corporate and franchisee support. My former fraternity brother, Jeff Corte, introduced me to the concept. He has been in the shipping industry for 10 years and was familiar with Unishippers as a reputable company in the field amongst small to mid-size businesses. When he became aware of the franchise opportunity, he sent it to me and thought it was a great investment opportunity that would best leverage my experience and background skills. As a matter of fact, Jeff signed on and purchased a Unishippers franchise a year later.
Furthermore, while I did look into several different franchise options, other franchises had higher start-up costs and lower corporate support. This was the greatest opportunity that offered the most value.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
$30,000 to purchase the franchise
$20,000 in start-up fees, licensures, office equipment and more.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I spoke with a dozen franchise owners and came to find that Unishippers has a fantastic group of owners. I also did my share of research. There truly isn’t another shipping company that does what we do. Unishippers caters to small to mid-size businesses and we’re a one stop shop for all of our customers’ shipping needs – the business practically sells itself.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Cash flow is the biggest unexpected challenge, mostly because we’re relying heavily on customers to pay their bills. I become financially responsible in the event that my customers don’t pay on time, and I currently have around 110 customers. Fortunately, Unishippers provides a great customer service office that manages the billing to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. In order to be successful, you need good, reliable people behind you, and that’s what Unishippers provides.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Plan to spend double what someone tells you the franchise is going to cost and be sure to conduct heavy research. You also need to be able to stomach the downside and wade through the downturn, because it’s not always going to be easy. Every business has its share of risks, so you need to be mentally prepared that not everything is going to go exactly according to plan.
What’s next for you and your business?
In 2014, I’ve already doubled the size of my business, including my revenue and the number of sales representatives. In fact, by the end of Q1, I matched and exceeded my 2013 sales. I’d like to continue on this incline and double my revenue and number of sales representatives again next year.