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.
It seemed like Connor Ferguson was living a dream life in 2009. He had just moved to New Jersey for a job as the youngest vice president at a bank with 200,000 employees. Then, a mere 24 hours after moving, he had to lay off 265 people – including himself.
Fortunately, franchising offered Ferguson the chance to start a second career running his own business, without needing to start a company from the ground up. Today, he owns an urgent care center in Baltimore as an AFC/Doctors Express franchisee. Here's what he's learned.
Name: Connor Ferguson
Franchise owned: AFC/Doctors Express urgent care in Pikesville, Md.
How long have you owned a franchise?
After my sudden and unexpected job loss, I knew I wanted to own my own business. But I also knew that I didn’t have the experience to start one from the ground up. Franchising was the perfect fit for me because I knew how to manage a team of people and build a brand but I wanted the guidance and support of a successful company, like AFC/Doctors Express. They guided me through every step in opening my franchise, from choosing a location to licensing. They set me up for success.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was in the banking industry. I started as an account executive and worked my way up to the youngest vice president at the world’s largest privately held bank. I was then transferred to another state to take over 18 of their retail branches. However, the company decided to leave the country and along with others, I found myself without a job.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Once I realized I wanted to open an urgent care center, I found that AFC/Doctors Express provided a unique opportunity for me to move into a business that I would not typically have the ability to own or run. I’m not a doctor. I don’t have a medical degree. But I am passionate about the need for urgent care in America.
The beauty about AFC/Doctors Express is that you don’t have to be in medicine to be a successful franchisee. Many of their centers are owned and operated by business people, like me, who oversee operations and manage marketing and community relations which allows our medical directors to solely manage patient care and devote their time interacting with patients.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I spent a total of about $750,000 before we officially opened our doors for things like construction, fixtures, furniture and medical equipment.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I looked for advice from my mentors, friends and medical professionals. I also hired an advisor. I think it’s important to do your research and make sure you are opening a franchise that’s a good fit for you, short term and long term.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
When you open a franchise like this one you need to have access to working capital. You dip into that for a while and it’s a quite different experience from a guaranteed paycheck. You also have to be prepared to work hard because suddenly you don’t have a lot of help doing the small stuff. I used to have corporate infrastructure, like a technical help desk, and now I’m gaining experience in areas I never would have imagined such as software integration.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Talk with as many current franchisees as possible. AFC/Doctors Express encouraged me to do that and it was very beneficial. Talking with other business owners who have gone through the same franchising process is great because it provides you with a realistic expectation of what owning and operating a franchise is like. I wanted a true snapshot of what it was going to take for me to open my doors, and what my days would be like once we were open for business.
What’s next for you and your business?
I hope to open another AFC/Doctors Express location in the next year or two. I would also like to start various lines of businesses, for example a recruiting company, that would provide services to my centers and add diverse revenue streams.