Why Franchisees Need to Ask Questions Before Signing Any Agreements
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.
When David Mathias became a HealthSource Chiropractic franchisee he was very different from most franchisees in one way: he had no background in chiropractic care. However, when he entered the business he was sure to get all of his burning questions answered before he signed his franchise agreement, ensuring he felt 100 percent prepared to open up shop. Today, he says he can talk shop with even the most experienced of chiropractors. Here's what he's learned.
Name: David Mathias
Franchise owned: HealthSource Chiropractic in Harvest Ala., Mobile, Ala. and Spanish Fork, Ala. I own all of these locations with my son, Jake.
How long have you owned a franchise?
Since 2011. I was retired, and once I saw the business model for HealthSource Chiropractic, I knew this is what I wanted to do. The lack of knowledge as it pertained to the technical side of the business and not being as familiar with those techniques from the medical side of things, I did not understand at the time. It’s kind of like an accountant trying to do an engineer’s job and vice versa. I wanted to get my hands dirty and learn the business and prove that a non-chiropractor could succeed within this franchise.
I had no interest in working whatsoever. I was 44 years old, retired and living a good life. But when I attended D-Day (Discovery Day) and saw what HealthSource had put together, I was literally blown away at the models and the chiropractors who are literally business people. I had gained such respect for them for what they had put together, and as a business guy, I saw an opportunity to secure Alabama and Mississippi so we could take this business model to those states.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I had a robotics business that we founded in 1993 in Huntsville, Ala., and kept that rolling until 2004, which is when I decided to retire. Dr. Dan Daley, a good friend of mine who happened to own a HealthSource franchise in Athens, Ala.,convinced me to attend a Discovery Day (opportunity to learn firsthand from the executives at HealthSource and the systems, policies and procedures they have in place), and after seeing their model, it was a no-brainer. I was so impressed with the model and likened it to a quality system of chiropractic offices. Six months later, I came out of retirement and became a regional developer for HealthSource and 6 months after that, I bought the first location in Harvest.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I wouldn’t know about HealthSource unless it was for Dr. Daley. He and I used to be neighbors and have remained very good friends. He knows me very well and suggested I look into it, and here we are.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I felt comfortable jumping in. I never worried about money. I have trust in my employees who just follow the models. We broke even in about two months from a cash flow standpoint. Total cost was about $155,000. $35,000 for the franchise fee, hard costs were roughly $90,000, which included equipment, signage, branding, furniture, software, etc. and about $30,000 in working capital.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I spent time on the phone with HealthSource founder Dr. Chris Tomshack, just talking about business, business philosophy, marketing and getting more and more educated with HealthSource and the process. I then confirmed those conversations with Dr. Daley, and that’s what sold me. As a friend, I knew Dan wouldn’t steer me wrong.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The biggest challenge was honestly learning the science. As of now I could sit at a table with a bunch of chiropractors and they wouldn’t know I wasn’t a chiropractor. Back when I got in, my biggest fear was not having the knowledge that our wonderful doctors have just due to my business background. Once I started attending the trainings that HealthSource provides -- even to this day -- every Tuesday, I learned and continue to learn so much. I had fear, but I had confidence that I knew I could own something in the health care industry with a number of doctors who had way more education than I do.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
The best thing to do in all of franchising, whether it’s fast food or a chiropractic franchises, is to attend those discovery days. And you MUST ASK QUESTIONS. You must solve your fears and lack of confidence so you have an understanding when you walk out of D-Day that your fears can be conquered. You must be close to 100 percent confident when you are ready to finalize the deal to own a franchise. If it’s a good company, when you walk out, you will feel that support from the franchise, which will help ease your worries.
What’s next for you and your business?
What’s next for me is now that we have the numbers and enough offices to serve what I would term as a “pilot office,” is to bring in enough young talent from chiropractic schools all throughout the country and provide an intern experience for them that they can’t get anywhere else -- where they will potentially grow to own their own chiropractic franchise someday. What we’ve created here in this region is what we call a “Learn, Earn and Own” program. What we are doing is taking students and providing an intern experience (learn), where if we are impressed, can earn them associate positions. That then leads them down the path of possibly owning their own practice someday. We try to help find the funding and help get them launched.