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.
After working as a leading corporate operations executive for 30 years, Ken Chaffee knew his weaknesses as a businessman. He also knew it was time to get out of the corporate rat race and start his own business: one that embraced his strengths. Chaffee's research lead him to OpenWorks, a cleaning and facility services franchise that would allow him to use his skills in team building and implementing systems without magnifying his weakness as a salesperson. Here's what he's learned over the last 14 years.
Name: Ken Chaffee
Franchise owned: I own the OpenWorks location that serves El Paso, Texas, the general metro area of Phoenix, and New Mexico. I also own the exclusive rights to the New Mexico territory.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I purchased my OpenWorks franchise in 2000. I have been part of this thriving franchise system for more than 14 years.
As a former director of operations for a large corporation, I liked the idea of buying into a proven business model that already possessed smart and effective systems and processes. OpenWorks provided me with the opportunity to buy into an established franchise system and open my location where my wife and I wanted to move: the greater Phoenix area.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Prior to owning my OpenWorks franchise, I was director of operations for E&J Gallo winery in Modesto, Calif. By the late 1990s, I had been working at E&J Gallo for 30 years and it was time for me to make a change. I was heading into my fifties and I realized I needed to get out of the corporate rat race and start my own business.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
OpenWorks is the perfect fit for me as an operations mind who knows how to manage people and ensure follow through on the value proposition a company promises customers. Here are a list of reasons I chose to buy-in to the OpenWorks brand:
1.I don’t have to sell. That’s not a misprint. OpenWorks has a call center and a team of sales professionals who take the sales process out of the hands of franchise owners. I am not a salesman at heart, so I am thrilled to be working with a franchisor who doesn’t expect me to pound the pavement and provides me with a book of accounts.
2.I had the opportunity to grow quickly. The American economy was healthy when I bought in 2000 and the OpenWorks team was seeking out professional owners who could build and manage large territories and important client relationships. My operations background was a perfect fit and I was able to quickly expand my business to cover three markets.
3.The business model is simple and effective. Compared to running a restaurant or retail store that comes with complex systems and regional appeal, OpenWorks’ commercial cleaning business model is easy to replicate in any market. I can focus on my biggest strength, managing people, and help my staff deliver the OpenWorks promise: making commercial facilities cleaner, greener and healthier places to work.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
OpenWorks’ affordability was also very attractive to me as a former corporate employee. It cost me less than $50,000 to launch my franchise location. This included cleaning supplies, equipment, training, marketing, and the franchise fee.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I relied on my own independent research to find the right franchise opportunity. After working in the corporate world for decades, I had an excellent understanding of my personal strengths and weaknesses and knew I needed to find a franchise opportunity that allowed me to focus on my strengths. After exploring OpenWorks online and meeting with CEO Eric Roudi face-to-face, I knew the OpenWorks franchise opportunity was a perfect fit for me.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The biggest challenge I have faced as a commercial cleaning franchisee is satisfying a wide range of clients. The business owners we serve in Phoenix, New Mexico, and El Paso all have different personalities and expectations. Even when we work with big corporate accounts who hire us to clean multiple locations, we deal with different managers at each location who have a unique set of expectations. My advice to new business owners: do not undervalue the importance of customer service. It’s important to understand how to manage relationships regardless of your industry.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I have one more piece of advice for aspiring business owners. Regardless of the franchise you open, it is important that you come in willing to work. Even if you’re an absentee owner, it is important that you possess real business skills that you can use to solve difficult problems. Unfortunately, no business ownership opportunity is a golden ticket. All owners have to get their hands and feet dirty with brand new businesses.
What’s next for you and your business?
I have been operating within this franchise system for more than 14 years and I’m always looking for ways to grow. However, I’m 64 now and love to travel with my wife and spend time with my grandkids. I have been fortunate enough to find great people who help with a lot of the day to day business and I can rely on them to get the job done. Hopefully, before too long, I can be semi-retired!