Franchise Players: What 27 Years in the Franchise Industry Taught Me About Becoming a Franchisee
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his career, Arnie Williams positions spanning the franchise industry – franchise support, department head, vice president operations. However, there was one role he had never filled: franchisee. After 27 years in the franchising business, Williams realized that if he wanted to continue to be challenged in franchising, he would have to start his own business. So, he became a Money Mailer franchisee earlier this year. Here's what he's learned.
Name: Arnie Williams
Franchise owned (location): Money Mailer of Metro Seattle North
How long have you owned the franchise?
Since the beginning of 2014
In the later stages of my work life it became harder and harder to find a position that used all of my skills and experience to the fullest. It didn't take me long to realize that if I wanted to continue to be challenged and stay out in the business world I would have to do it myself. The benefits of franchising made it abundantly clear for me that this was the path I should take.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I spent the last 27 years in the franchise business at the corporate level. I worked for True Value Hardware, which at the time had over 5,000 franchises, Ethan Allen Home Furnishings with 300 locations nationwide, and WIN Home Inspection which had 225 locations in 37 states.
I worked at positions from franchise support, field support, and department head and finally ended my career as VP of operations where I oversaw sales, IT, training, support and operations.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
By spending as many years as I did in franchise training and support it was very clear to me where the strengths and weaknesses in franchising lie. In most every case the biggest challenge was with the new franchisee startup cycle.
The Money Mailer ramp-up plan made my process easier and less expensive, which was important to me at this stage in my life. It allowed me to build some momentum in my business before the heavy costs came due, it made perfect sense to me, so I joined their team. Money Mailer seemed to have that startup process figured out. Abundant support is given to the new franchisee in terms of field training, hands-on support and most important of all-cash incentives during the startup process making the decision a no-brainer for me.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
The minimum franchise fee for Money Mailer is $50,000. The franchise fee includes the following launch package:
- $8,000 lead generation allowance.
- 2 weeks classroom curriculum at Money Mailer University
- 4 weeks of in-territory training and support from a dedicated, field-based Franchise Performance Coach
- All fixed costs, including postage, waived on the first mailing
- Print costs waived on first 25 restaurant ads sold
- $7,500 production credit on second mailing
- $3,500 production credit on third mailing
- $3,500 production credit on fourth mailing
- Royalty waived 100 percent during your first year in business
- AdEase (ART) software cost waived 100 percent in year one.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I started by reading the FDD cover to cover - slowly, carefully and with a highlighter. These are the rules that I would have to live by and I wanted to be sure I understood them all. Being in the business made it abundantly clear to me that most franchisees do not read their FDD.
I created a list of questions and then proceeded to ask everyone I could for an answer. I spoke to the franchise consultants, to my franchise broker and to the Money Mailer franchisees. Franchisees are really the best source of information because they've lived in the same shoes that you will live-in and most have no qualms about telling you the cold hard facts.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
I really didn't expect any surprises because I was around franchising for so long; I thought I'd seen everything. The work was never-ending, I have a pretty good work ethic and knew that this was going to be tough, but I had no idea it would be this tough. It was all me, there were no secretaries, there were no assistants, there were no department heads to delegate to, it was all me. At the end of the day I could feel good about what I had accomplished OR feel bad because I wasn't efficient and didn't accomplish enough. There was no one to blame or praise, except me.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Go for it, be your own boss, but be ready to work your behind off. Do what they taught you and only what they taught you. They are the experts in this business and they know the best way to do this work. Don't do it differently, don't re-engineer it and don’t fight it – learn it!
You bought a franchise because of the proven business, operating system and support - use them all - the way they taught you to and do not deviate from any of it.
Work hard and when you get tired or discouraged, remember it's all for you; you don't have to share it with anyone. This is your business and every bit of sweat will come back to you, every minute you put into it will pay you back. This is your business, it's not someone else's and everything you do or don't do will be reflected in your paycheck/success at the end of the day.
What’s next for you and your business?
After three months I'm still learning, so my next step is to continue to learn and to be as good as I can at this business. Once I'm there I'll be ready for the next step and I think, in my case, it will be doing more of it and getting even better at it!