How This Veteran Went From Farmer to Financier
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.
Frank and Susan Mullen both had long careers in and out of corporate America before they decided to dive into the world of franchising. Frank started out working on his family's farm before joining the U.S. Navy, while Susan had experience as an accountant. Both had earned their MBAs – and both were sick of the bureaucracy their careers required. So, they decided to open a business of their own. Here's what they've learned from opening a Liquid Capital Strategic Funding.
Name: Frank and Susan Mullen
Franchise owned: Liquid Capital Strategic Funding, serving Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Fauquier counties in Virginia, near the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
How long have you owned a franchise?
Since Dec. 19, 2014. We opened for business officially on Jan. 2, 2015.
Franchising greatly improves the odds that a new business will be successful.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
As a child, Frank worked on his family’s farm, instilling in him a work ethic that remained as his career unfolded. At 17, he joined the U.S. Navy where he remained for six years. Frank and his wife Susan, both MBA graduates, worked for years in various industries until the couple had enough of the bureaucracy of corporate America. Inspired by the desire to leave the rigmarole of their jobs, the couple began to formulate a plan to own a business of their own.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
The concept of Liquid Capital resonated with us because of my wife’s many years in helping small businesses through the process of building a business, from an idea to finding the appropriate funding to launching to maturing of the businesses. Cash flow is a critical element to all business activities whether new, in growth or mature. The way banks liquidity ratios are calculated have changed in the last few years and banks have for the most part pulled out of the factoring and alternative financing arena. The economy is rebounding and the startup and small business base is expanding. We feel there are great opportunities in the alternative finance arena. We are very proud to be small-business owners and we love being able to have a part in helping other small businesses reach the next level.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
$50,000 for franchise fee
$1,950 legal fees to franchise attorney
$2,000 for plane tickets, meals and motel for training
$4,995 for Tenet Financial Group to set up funding using our 401K
$500 for a color laser printer. We used office equipment and a laptop we already owned rather than purchase more equipment.
$59,445 is the total of all the costs.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We got most of our advice from the franchisees. Of course, Seth Lederman had vetted the franchise organization before he presented it as an option to us, so we already knew the franchisees rated the organization highly. We spent time talking to at least half dozen active franchisees. We asked them if they knew of any business failures within their franchise system and the reason for those failures. We asked questions about how the franchisor responded to issues franchisees had in the system.
We found out the biggest reason for failure is difficulty with business development and the response of the franchisor, which was to engage Paula Hope of Booked Solid as a business coach for their franchise network. Paula is running the new “Onboarding” program for new franchisees as well as another program for franchisees already in the system, with the goal of helping older franchisees in the network double or triple their business in 2015 and new franchisees to get launched more quickly. Jeff Lyons, I and my wife, Susan, are the first franchisees to participate in the “Onboarding” program. The franchisees advised us to take advantage of the help Paula Hope has to offer because they feel Paula is phenomenal and helped them grow their business. They also had very good things to say about the people at the top of the organization: Brian Birnbaum, Sol Rotor and Barnett Gordon.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Deciding how to effectively allocate our time resources to develop the business and more mundane things like getting business photos, editing marketing collateral to suit our purposes was difficult. Getting incorporated was the easy part, because we engaged Diane Rosenkratz of the Tenet Financial Group since we were financing the enterprise with our IRA rollovers. My wife, Susan, is an accountant so setting up the books was also a snap. Coming back to allocation of time and resources to develop the business: that would have to be the biggest challenge which will have the greatest long-term impact.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Find a reputable franchise broker. They will do a lot of the legwork to help you narrow down the field. A good franchise broker should prequalify you after an in depth interview and testing process which helps him to guide you towards franchises that are more likely to fit your style and background. They can also guide you to franchise attorneys to help you review documents and give coaching on what kinds of questions to ask franchisees when you go through the vetting process. If you are worried about funding, they can refer you to resources, such as Tenet Financial Group, to help you tap your retirement or whatever other resources you may need to access in order to finance your new business. We felt our franchise broker, Seth Lederman, did a phenomenal job at helping us through the process.
What’s next for you and your business?
GROW, GROW, GROW!