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How Convenient

A little loyalty translates into a lifelong franchise relationship.

The average North American may switch careers three to five times in his or her lifetime, but Paul Ghuman, 40, is on track to stay with the same company for life. Born in India, Ghuman came to the U.S. at the age of 19. He applied for a job at a 7-Eleven and quickly climbed the ranks to become manager of the store. In 1997, a decade later, Ghuman went from 7-Eleven employee to franchisee by purchasing a pre-existing store in Fountain Valley, California, with his wife, Manjeet, 36. "It was just like hitting a jackpot," recalls Paul. "I was waiting for that moment."

In 2007, Slurpee spills still have the Ghumans running, but their success is far from fizzling. They just opened their fifth store, were named franchisee of the year in 2006 and have dramatically increased sales in the three stores they've taken over, with one increasing from $800,000 to $2 million in annual sales.

What's the secret behind their Midas touch? Whether it's getting to know their customers by name, giving free Slurpees to local schoolchildren once a year or donating their parking lot to a local church for car washes on the weekend, the Ghumans make their community a top priority. In addition, their store's appearance is never compromised. Says Paul, "The store has to look really appealing, always clean, ready for the customer 24 hours."

Meanwhile, the 7-Eleven path continues far into the horizon, as Paul strives to own 10 stores and become the highest-performing franchisee in the system. "I don't have any plans to go anywhere or find something else," he says. "There's nothing better than this."

This story appears in the December 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »