Older And Wiser
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Your age, personal obligations and past experiences can all play a part in your success as a franchisee. Even within the same system, your age may create both special challenges for you to overcome and advantages that help you succeed. So is starting a franchise any easier when you're older or younger?
We sought the answer from two franchisees of Crown Trophy, a trophy- and award-making business-Ben April, 43, married and the father of two children when he left the real estate developer he worked for to open a Crown Trophy franchise in Ballwin, Missouri; and Brian Keesee, now 29, single and fresh out of the Air Force when he opened his Crown store in Waldorf, Maryland.
Here, we talk to Ben April about being a more experienced businessperson before becoming a franchisee.
Franchise Zone: Why did you go into franchising rather than start your own business?
Ben April: I just got tired of [the corporate life]. I had been traveling for the better part of 9 1/2 years, and I decided I wanted to get away from that and from the real estate environment [in general]. So my wife and I started to look for some type of business to open. I liked the idea of a franchise because I didn't want to start cold and have to develop my own concept.
FZ: What impact did starting the franchise have on your personal life?
April: My children were really too young at the time to understand what was going on. My wife is my partner, so needless to say we were both pretty committed to the franchise. She knew I was unhappy with my previous situation and that I never wanted to be under someone else's thumb again. We looked forward to my not having to travel and the flexibility in work schedules that owning our own business would allow.
FZ: What fears did you have about leaving the security of your other job, losing health insurance, etc.?
April: The previous situation was intolerable, and I didn't want to find another job working for someone else. We knew we had to do whatever it took to succeed. Failure was not an option.
FZ: What's it like being the boss?
April: I've always been a self-starter. I don't need someone to tell me to get up and get going in the morning. With the real estate developer, I did well because no one had to micro-manage me. I was given a project to work on, and it was up to me to decide and act upon the necessary steps. The worst part [about starting the franchise] was not having anyone below me. Before, I had two administrative assistants to turn to; now, when a letter has to be typed, I have to do it.
FZ: Do you think starting this business would have been easier if you had been younger?
April: While I certainly believe the energy, fearlessness and enthusiasm of the young can help them succeed in my industry, I also believe my life and work experience were quite helpful in my situation. In a business that requires you to wear many hats throughout the course of an average day, having already worn a good number of hats throughout my life is certainly a benefit.
FZ: If you could do it all over again, would you still go the franchise route?
April: There's no question that I would go the franchise route again. I don't have to tell you how many pitfalls lie in the path of the start-up business. Crown Trophy is a perfect fit. They give support when I need it, but they don't prevent me from exercising my entrepreneurial spirit.