Franchise Players: The Military Taught Me to Think On My Feet
Franchise Players is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. In celebration of Memorial Day, we're running a series celebrating veterans in franchising. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email email@example.com.
In the First Gulf War, Jim Lager was stationed in both Iraq and Kuwait. While it isn't immediately obvious how this military experience prepared him to be a hydraulic hose repair franchisee, he took away a major lesson that would serve him well: how to think on his feet. After 3-1/2 years in the business, his ability to think fast while working within a system that he learned in the military has allowed him to thrive as a Pirtek franchisee.
Name: Jim Lager
Franchise owned (location): Pirtek, North Dallas, Tex.
How long have you owned the franchise?
Three and a half years. Joined Pirtek on October 15, 2010.
I stumbled into franchising in 1992. Actually, it was a distributorship that eventually turned into the franchise, Snap-On Tools.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was in the Army and once I complete my service, I returned from Germany to get my Master's in Business Administration from the University of Minnesota through the G.I. Bill.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
They had an entry level program in which I would be able to work my way into owning the business.
How did your experience in the military prepare you for franchise ownership?
In the military they teach you to follow programs and take direction. Yet when a program changes, or in the face of the unexpected, you still have to be able to think on your feet.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I was in an entry level program that let me get in without ownership. I had accumulated approximately $20,000 for a down payment and then financed everything else.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I was inexperienced and very lucky. I did very little research and in fact was told not to get involved at the time with Snap-on but I needed a job and the rest worked out from there.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Paying sales tax always took me by surprise. When owning your own business there is an abundance of cash flow and you have to be able to manage debt. It may seem daunting at first, but if you stay focused and on track, it should be manageable.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Do lots of research, more than I decided to do. Talk to current and past franchises and then if you decide to go with a franchise. There will be nay-sayers, don’t listen to them. Be positive and follow the program. If not 100 percent you better follow the program 90 percent and just tweak 10 percent to make it fit you. Don't change everything and re-invent the wheel.
What advice do you have for other veterans who want to own their own franchise?
A franchise is a program just like the military. If you can find one that fits you and you can be passionate about, it will be very familiar and easy to follow the program.
What’s next for you and your business?
Continue growing the Pirtek brand. We have been keeping good work gaining numerous jobs. We have been working on flight simulators and other aspects that involve Pirtek’s assistance. I look forward to expanding more outreach throughout the greater Dallas area and perhaps even expand out of state.
Kate Taylor is a reporter at Business Insider. She was previously a reporter at Entrepreneur. Get in touch with tips and feedback on Twitter at @Kate_H_Taylor.