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.
Colleen McKenna spent much of her early career developing abilities that would make her a great Welcomemat Services franchisee: top-notch skills in marketing, communications and PR. When KcKenna left her corporate job to become a franchisee for the marketing strategies and technology franchise, she was well-versed in the world of marketing and business. However, franchising offered her flexibility and opportunities that corporate employment never did. Here's what she has to say on the benefits and challenges of owning her own franchise.
Name: Colleen McKenna
Franchise owned: Welcomemat Services in Las Vegas
How long have you owned the franchise?
I had worked in corporate America for my entire career and wanted to experience entrepreneurship, yet I wanted to invest in a business that had a proven track record of success and systems in place that would provide my back end support.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
My very last position prior to purchasing my franchise was Director of Global Brand Campaigns for Symantec Corp. where I focused on the Norton brand of consumer products. But, most of my experience during my 25 year career has been in communications and public relations. I helped build the worldwide infrastructure of Symantec’s communications team and for many years ran Worldwide Consumer Public Relations. I also worked in Japan for Mitsubishi Electric as well as for global public relations agency, Hill & Knowlton.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I chose WMS firstly because I felt it was a good fit with my professional skill set. In its purest form, it is a marketing service that helps businesses grow and succeed — I know how to do this and felt comfortable transferring my experience and skill set to the WMS loyalty system.
But there is also a certain amount of chemistry that needs to exist between the franchisor and the franchisee and I felt it right away with WMS. The management team is very professional and very supportive and has a genuine interest in seeing each and every franchisee succeed.
How did entering franchising later in life shape your experience?
Entering franchising now rather than at the beginning of my career has allowed me to be more patient about the ramp up period. When I was younger I was in a big hurry to get everywhere, but now it’s more about the journey and appreciating everything about starting my own business. I am learning a lot, which is great and I feel constantly challenged which is fun.
I also have a much greater appreciation for the freedom business ownership affords me. The ability to set my own schedule and make my own decisions is much more valuable now than it was earlier in my career.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Legal consulting $1,000; equipment $2,000; Supplies, $1,000; Travel $2,000; Franchise Fee $40,000.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I conducted quite a bit of research on my own but also worked with a consultant from the Entrepreneur’s Source — an organization that matches people with franchises. WMS also encourages interviews with current franchisees, which was extremely helpful.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I have to say that so far nothing has surprised me too much, but a growing challenge at this point is how to manage all aspects of my business well. For example, as my customer base grows, so does the time required for customer service and accounting, which takes time away from sales. It’s challenging to be a one man band in the beginning!
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I’ve had many friends and associates ask me about franchising and I tell them all that the most important thing is that the business fits into who you are and the experience you’ve gained during your career. This allows you to approach your business from the basis of authenticity and authority. Also, if you are used to a big support team, get ready to do it all yourself! And lastly, make sure to have a cushion of at least 6 months “salary” set aside to live off of so that there isn’t undue pressure to turn a profit immediately. Starting any business takes time and in the beginning you will be spending more than you are earning. You need to be ready for this.
What’s next for you and your business?
Well, my plan is to continue to grow my customer base in my territory. Then in a year or so when its cash flowing well, I’d like to buy another adjacent territory, hire an outside sales person and continue to grow the business in the Las Vegas Valley. There is so much growth and so much opportunity. I am only limited by the hours in the day available to work the business.