Triple Threat

Don Swedo & Don Herborn, Franchisees of EagleRider Motorcycle Rental

Don Swedo, 42, calls it his secret squirrel mission. Posing as a customer at EagleRider Motorcycle Rental, which specializes in Harley Davidson rentals and guided tours, Swedo (below left) was able to rate their customer service, appearance and flow of the company before buying his own franchise location. What he saw he liked, but Swedo's covert operation was just the first step he took to making sure EagleRider was the right franchise for him.

"[The franchisor] had done all the hard work," he says. "Their European connections [alone] would take years to establish."

Next Swedo toured all the EagleRider franchises in an effort to get the full flavor of the company, asking specifically about problems and seeking recommendations. He spoke with competing franchises and read all the press material he could get his hands on. He even called customers.

Swedo and partner Don Herborn, 35, opened their first EagleRider franchise in San Diego in April 1999 and now own four units. So what advice would Swedo give to other prospective franchisees just starting their research missions? "It's stupid to learn from your own experiences when you could learn from others. That's not time-conducive," he says. "The idea is to hit the ground running."

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Triple Threat.

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