During his eight years working in the corporate offices of J.D. Byrider, a used car dealership and financing franchise, Jim Thompson had done pretty much everything there was to do, from opening new stores to selling franchises. "You know how to run it-you see people who have succeeded and know all the secrets. It was a natural progression for me to do this on my own," says Thompson, 33.
Before leaving headquarters, the former vice president of franchise development persuaded one of his employees to partner with him. "He came from the finance [industry], I had the franchise background, and the mix just seemed perfect," Thompson says of Jim Kagiliery, also 33.
In 2000, the pair opened their first J.D. Byrider unit in Jacksonville, Florida, with Thompson acting as president of the dealership. Kagiliery acts as president of the finance company, a franchise called Car Now Acceptance Co. that's co-branded with J.D. Byrider. Thompson and Kagiliery currently own three franchises in Jacksonville and plan to open two more soon.
The transition from corporate employee to franchisee has been a welcome one for Thompson, who majored in entrepreneurship in college. As a student, though, he didn't foresee himself running a chain of used car dealerships. "I wrote my final paper on running a gym, but you have so much overhead, it's not very profitable," Thompson says. "Once you get out in the real world, you find where the money's made."