Why I Left My Fast-Food Operations Job to Open a Franchise of My Own
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.
Bryan Rhodes began his career in the franchise industry as a teenager, working behind the counter at a fast-food restaurant. For 34 years, he worked his way up in the fast-food franchise industry, reaching the position of vice president of operations at a Burger King franchise. Then, he decided that the restaurant industry wasn't for him – but franchising was. Here's why he decided to become a Window Genie franchisee after decades in the world of fast food.
Name: Bryan Rhodes
Franchise owned: Window Genie, in Corpus Christi, Texas
How long have you owned a franchise?
I have owned this franchise for 3 months.
I have worked in a leadership capacity for franchisees in the restaurant business for the majority of my career (30-plus years). I am very familiar with the franchise environment. I chose the franchise route to take advantage of proven methods and systems, marketing resources and a developed brand that customers can identify with. In addition, I have a great resource available to me in the network of other franchisees dealing with the same opportunities and challenges that I am dealing with. I didn’t want to “reinvent the wheel,” but still wanted to operate my own business.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was vice president of operations for a couple of Burger King franchisees for five years and prior to that spent 10 years as director of operations for a McDonald’s franchisee. I “grew up” in the restaurant business, staying with it after I graduated from college.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I had already decided (with my wife) that though I had spent my entire career in restaurants, it was time for a change. After spending the majority of my life working six days a week, including nights, weekends and holidays, it was time to find something new not only for me, but that also gave me the opportunity to spend more quality time with my family.
I chose Window Genie for a number of reasons. The excitement and enthusiasm of the corporate team from Rik Nonelle on down was impressive. However, what impressed me more was the marketing support both online and for local marketing. I liked the business model very much. I also liked the fact that my quality of life would dramatically improve, and that the franchisees were very in tune with the corporate message. Those whom I spoke with never regretted their decision.
I felt very comfortable with the fact that though this was a different business, I would still continue to deal directly with customers on a daily basis, something I have always done. The ongoing support from corporate was also an important factor for me in my decision. Match this with the low initial investment, especially compared to the restaurant business, and it was the right decision for me.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I am in for roughly $102,000 which includes:
Franchise fee (I purchased a larger territory)
Start up equipment and supplies
Insurance (GL, equipment and workers comp)
Professional services (financial, legal, etc.)
I also financed two vehicles (one vehicle was required)
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I utilized a franchise coach who helped me determine what types of opportunities would suit my goals and requirements and then set up initial introductions with several companies. After that I had extensive conversations with people within the identified companies, asking them a myriad of questions about the business as well as questions related to disclosure documents that I had studied. As I started to narrow down the field, I contacted a number of franchisees with different levels of experience within the system to get their take and elaborate on their experiences. I also did a lot of internet searches about the companies I was looking at.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
There haven’t been a lot of unexpected surprises to date with the experience I had running franchises for others. One of the bigger challenges for me is I don’t have the administrative support at my own office that I was accustomed to in my previous career so insuring that these important tasks are completed (book keeping, documentation, payroll, follow up on technicians' paper work, etc.) while maintaining my emphasis on growing the business has been challenging, but proper time management helps with that. In my market, finding the right advertising vehicles to get the word out has been a challenge, but we are having success at narrowing down what works.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First, identify your goals and what YOU want to accomplish. It’s not only about financial security -- though that is obviously important! Have an open mind about opportunities that you may not have originally considered that fit your stated goals and what you want to accomplish. Take the time to do proper research.
I recommend a coach who will help you narrow down your choices but not one that pushes you to a particular decision. Talk to as many franchisees of your target franchises as you feel comfortable talking to, not just a chosen few, and ask tough questions. I found most franchisees to be very forthcoming with information when I asked the right questions. Ask any questions you may have of the franchisor. The good ones may not have the answer immediately, but will get someone who will give you the information you are looking for. Make sure you look at all your financing options as there are a number of ways to accomplish this goal.
What’s next for you and your business?
Our goal for the near future is to continue to build a solid core of repeat customers. We are targeting adding another service vehicle (and appropriate technicians) within next year with a minimum of five by year four. I plan to add office staff to help me focus more on the growth of the business in the near future.