The Golden Ticket

A Slice of Life

Ask any college graduate what the future holds, and you'll find that a lot of them have no clue. Sure, they may have mastered the rigors of academic life, but when faced with the daunting challenge of finding their path in the real world, they are helplessly lost. Yet if you had asked Jason Shifflett that question when he graduated seven years ago, he wouldn't have even hesitated. Thanks to a franchise, he had already found his way--his response would have immediately and adamantly been "pizza."

At the age of 22, Shifflett became the proud owner of his first Domino's Pizza franchise in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and he was confident in his potential for success. After all, he had been absorbing everything he could regarding the Domino's Pizza system ever since he started answering phones there at the age of 14. With hard work and dedication, he had worked his way up to assistant manager, a position that he continued to hold even after he left for college. And at 19, when he was presented with the challenge of managing a struggling Domino's Pizza store, he had such a good handle on the system that he didn't even flinch. In less than a year, he was able to turn the store around and triple its sales. He strengthened his track record by repeating the success with a second store. Domino's Pizza branches were thriving under his leadership, and Shifflett had found his niche in life before he even had to look. Says Shifflett, "When you have 30 to 40 team members working with you, and you have the rush of selling pizzas and getting them out the door, it gets in your veins, and you become passionate about it."

Now, at the age of 29, Shifflett has become a powerful presence in the pizza world. He owns seven Domino's Pizza franchises (three in Mississippi and four in Tennessee), his 2006 projected sales are in the seven figures, and he has received numerous prestigious awards, including Domino's Gold Franny Award, given to the top 1 percent of all Domino's Pizza franchisees worldwide. Shifflett is on a roll, and he's nowhere close to slowing down. In less than five years, he expects to grow his empire to 20 Domino's franchises. And he has never had to convince others of his potential despite his age. "Talk is cheap, but when people start seeing action and results, that speaks volumes," says Shifflett. "I haven't been a guy who talks a lot. I have just shown people what can happen."

So how did Shifflett find success at such an early age? He doesn't credit it to his intelligence, his entrepreneurial spirit or his youthful energy. He credits it to a 45-year-old company that allowed him to spread his wings and fly. "[The Domino's Pizza system] is easily reproducible, but it's also easy to master," says Shifflett. "It's kind of like an athlete training for an Olympic sport--when you do the same thing over and over again with passion, energy and dedication, you get really good at it."

Perfect Match
Finding the right franchise can make a world of difference.

For Ythan Lax, Pam Brown and Jason Shifflett, franchising offered a solution just when they needed it most. But as each of them will attest, it takes more than just signing up with a franchise system to find success. Their stories are great because they found the right franchises for them. So how do you follow suit and find the same success? We asked Michael H. Seid, managing director of Michael H. Seid & Associates, a West Hartford, Connecticut-based management consulting firm specializing in the franchise industry, to give some pointers on how to narrow down the choices. Here are some tips that will set you on the right path to finding the perfect match:

  • Don't immediately seek out the advice of a franchise broker. According to Seid, franchise brokers narrow the choices down too quickly before giving the potential franchisee a chance to consider all the options.

  • Take the time to sit down and make a list of your strengths, weaknesses and interests. As Seid says, ask yourself what it is that you want to do when you wake up in the morning. sdetermine how much money you can invest and what type of an income you need to support your lifestyle.

  • Use the available resources. Seid recommends the International Franchise Association, and Entrepreneur's FranchiseZone, which has helpful articles and information on franchising. By doing preliminary research, you can find out the approximate investment you'll need, advice on how to buy a franchise and information on a franchise's stability.

  • After you've narrowed it down, Seid recommends finding a good franchise lawyer and contacting the franchisors to ultimately select the perfect franchise for you.
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This article was originally published in the January 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: The Golden Ticket.

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