Franchise Players

Franchise Players: A Franchising Power Couple on Making Tough Decisions

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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 ktaylor@entrepreneur.com.

When Robin and Ellen Hazel became BrightStar Care franchisees, they didn't have much experience in the industry. Robin was formerly a senior manager at a Fortune 500 company, while Ellen was a stay-at-home mom. Once they got into franchising, they were hooked. The couple's biggest struggle: not letting their passion for business completely take over their personal lives. Their dedication to the company is paying off big: the husband-wife team smashed revenue records with a 214 percent sales increase in one year. Here's how they did it.

Name: Robin & Ellen Hazel

Franchise owned (location): 

Two BrightStar Care franchises in South Pinellas County and North Pinellas County, Fla.

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How long you have owned the franchise:

2 1/2 years

Why franchising?

It provided us with the opportunity to explore our entrepreneurial spirit, yet work within an established, successful business model with a track record of success.

What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?

Robin was a senior manager in a Fortune 500 company completely unrelated to this business. Ellen was a stay-at-home mom raising our two children.

Why did you choose this particular franchise?

We saw a need in our community for a high-quality provider of private duty in-home care, and the BrightStar Care commitment to always providing a higher standard of care aligns with our values. The level of support, the external reviews and the satisfaction of franchisees within the system already led us to believe we were joining a best-in-class franchise. We have not been disappointed in our choice. 

How was the process of becoming a franchise owner different for a couple versus and individual?

It has to be much more collaborative. Difficult, gut-wrenching decisions about time and money and the allocation of resources have to be decided as a team. When there are no right answers, only ones that are best for our circumstances, it is all a calculated risk that you make together.

How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?

Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $150,000. Two thirds of that was spent on franchise fees and the balance on becoming licensed and preparing to open our doors. In Florida, it is required that you become accredited prior to getting your license, which drives up the cost.

Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?

From the support team at BrightStar Care, who provided a tremendous amount of resources as we prepared to open our doors, and the outstanding group of fellow owners in Florida, who were always willing to offer guidance, resources and advice whenever called upon. 

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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?

The fear of failure never goes away, but it motivates us to drive for success and creates the urgency to do all that is needed to accomplish our goals. Even though BrightStar Care assisted in the licensing process, getting licensed in an industry with no prior knowledge was challenging.

What have been the biggest challenges and positives of running a business with your spouse?

The positives are the financial reward, the sense of accomplishment as a team and business owner, and the (hopeful) legacy it provides you for your family. Finding a good work/life balance while pursuing that can be challenging. The business can completely consume all of your time. Because we’re passionate about our business, it’s where we spend the majority of our time, and it is challenging to not bring work home with you.

What advice do you have for individuals and couples who want to own their own franchise?

Do your homework. Commit 100 percent once you do and never look back. Burn the ships and work as though this is the only option. And make sure you are properly capitalized to sustain the business while you work towards breaking even. That will keep you up at night.

What’s next for you and your business?

We hope to double the business in the next three years, put proper leadership in place and take some time to relax and step away from the business for a little bit to enjoy the fruits of our hard work.

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Edition: December 2016

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