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.
Keith Orr was active in the Army for 24 years, serving in in the first Gulf War, Haiti, Egypt, Ukraine, Kosovo and Iraq. As he served in positions from Squad Leader to Platoon Sargent, he was also unknowingly learning the principles that would be key to his career after he left the military. Orr believes that the military taught him the value of hard work, how to follow systems and the best ways to react to changing circumstances on the fly. All of these skills would become essential to Orr's success when he became a Handyman Matters franchisee.
Here's how this veteran's military life helped shaped his civilian career.
Name: Keith Orr
Franchise owned: Handyman Matters of Northern Delaware
How long have you owned a franchise?
Since April 2013.
Franchising is no doubt one of the most widespread, efficient and trusted means of owning your own business. For veterans like myself it particularly makes sense. The principles veterans learn in the military make us ideal franchisees – we’re used to systems and structure, we’re almost universally hard-working and we’re willing to follow the rules. That being said, we’re also able to react to changing circumstances on the fly.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Prior to purchasing my Handyman Matters franchise, I spent 24 years of active duty service in the U.S. Army – serving in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Hawaii, as well as numerous deployments worldwide. Throughout my service, I held numerous chief leadership positions including fire team leader, squad leader, ammunition chief, operations NCO, infantry platoon sergeant, Bradley section leader, platoon sergeant/master gunner and finally senior instructor/writer. In my final position with the U.S. Army, my daily duties were mostly managerial and I seized the opportunity to prepare for my departure into civilian life.
Upon retiring from the Army with the rank of Sergeant First Class, I moved my family back to my home state of Delaware. Soon after, I realized entrepreneurship was the right path for me and opened my Handyman Matters franchise in Northern Delaware.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Once I decided that entrepreneurship was the right path for me, I immediately turned my attention to finding a franchise that would allow me to utilize the leadership, critical thinking and team work skills I developed throughout my time in the Army. I also wanted to find a franchise that would make possible the lifestyle that I wanted for myself and my family. At the suggestion of my franchise coach, Matt Thornton of The Entrepreneur’s Source, I came across Handyman Matters. I knew it was the right fit, especially when I saw the relationship between franchisees and the trust between franchisor and franchisee. This “family feel” was what made the decision an easy one.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I spent about $75,000 on the franchise purchase and startup costs. About $25,000 was from my own resources and the remaining $50,000 was from a SBA backed Patriot Express loan. I feel that I’m a bit underfunded, but it’s hard to find the balance between adequate financing and so much that you can’t make the payments.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
When I “flipped the switch” in my mind and decided to purchase a franchise, I started a crash program to learn all I could about business operations in general; I am constantly reading and learning about business and operating in here in Delaware. At the time I was actively pursuing a BS in Business Management, but the pace was too slow for me – I didn’t have another three years to wait and learn, so I started using all the resources available to me on line and in the classroom. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) has been a tremendous help and the Vet Net Entrepreneur video series on YouTube is a great resource. I found many great discussions and articles on LinkedIn as well.
I can’t praise Handyman Matters highly enough. They are absolutely the best resource I could have asked for when it comes to operations questions and employer advice in general. There are volumes of information available to us on their intranet. The other owners in the system are very supportive and have years of wisdom that they don’t hesitate to share with new franchisees. Their input and support right from my very first phone call is what really sold me on being part of the team.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The most unexpected thing is just how hard it is to find good people to work with that I can trust. I’m lucky to have a really good, seasoned group of employees who take great care of our customers, do outstanding work and really elevate our business above the rest. Without them I would have failed long ago.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Operating a franchise is really challenging and there are too many things to know all at once, but I always advise any prospective owner to learn as much as they can about sales and marketing. It’s not easy being an owner and you can often feel as if you are going it alone, so the support of your family and a trusted group of friends and advisors is invaluable.
What’s next for you and your business?
I’d like to get an admin person on board so that I can free up more time to develop the business. I’d also like to be more involved with local causes here in Delaware and really be a positive influence on the community that I truly love to be a part of.