The next time you hit the drive-thru or hire a service franchise, think about this: One of those people on the other side of the counter or phone may just be a millionaire.
Franchising is the source for thousands of quiet success stories. To illustrate the beauty of buying into a proven system, we found three franchisees who, with old-fashioned hard work and dedication, have joined our economy's million-dollar club. And while their lives are rarely flashy, these millionaire franchisees have progressed by doing what really matters: realizing dreams.
George McLaughlin, 28
Anyone who thinks Gen Xers lack ambition hasn't met franchisee George McLaughlin. In a little more than five years, McLaughlin has gone from serving sandwiches at a McAlister's Deli location while attending the University of Mississippi to heading a company that operates six McAlister's franchises throughout South Carolina.
"My major challenge was to find people to believe in me at the age of 23," McLaughlin recalls. Even though he had worked at the deli for more than a year and had trained McAlister's franchisees before moving from Mississippi to South Carolina to become one himself, McLaughlin had a hard time proving he was a good bet.
"Every time I'd walk into a developer's office, the first thing they'd ask me was how old I was and if I was crazy to go into a state 600 miles away and say, 'I want to build a McAlister's Deli, and I'm going to sell a lot of sandwiches in order to pay the rent,'" says McLaughlin. "It's very hard for a lot of people to believe that at first."
"My major challenge was to find people to believe in me at the age of 23."
Believe it or not, it happened. A company familiar with the franchise and McLaughlin's track record as a general manager was interested. McLaughlin's first location opened in Columbia, South Carolina, in 1997. With the help of the vice presidents, managers and employees at MAC Restaurant Corp., the business McLaughlin founded to operate his franchises, he has opened five other stores in Columbia, Greenville and Rock Hill, and has one more location opening soon.
McLaughlin plans to expand his company beyond McAlister's by taking on another franchise concept in the near future, and he hopes to eventually develop a brand-new concept of his own.
Bolstered by the $6 million MAC made in 2000 and the $10 million it's projecting for 2001, the chances anyone will be questioning McLaughlin's pitches again are slim to none.
Suzie and Dave McGuire, 36 and 34
Franchising might be a fairly sure thing, as opposed to other ways of starting a business, but if you think its path to millions comes without risk, meet Suzie and Dave McGuire. In 1989, Dave left the security of a corporate job to work for a franchisee of Servpro, a restoration and cleaning system franchise. His change in jobs involved relocation, and he had to move Suzie and their baby boy from Bloomington, Illinois, to Springfield, Illinois. "My parents thought we were absolutely crazy," says Dave. "We left the company car, the vacations, the health insurance. We burned our bridges. We couldn't afford to fail-our family's well-being depended on [our success]."
In 1990, the family moved once again, this time to Champaign, Illinois. The couple set up a Servpro franchise in their home, and their second son was born a few weeks later. The spare bedroom served as an office, and their home number doubled as a business line. Even though they were struggling, the McGuires took great joy in early successes. Dave recalls the steps to their first million: "The very first time our phone rang and we got a job, that was great. I remember the first time we got a paycheck and could afford to eat more than macaroni and cheese."
"We couldn't afford to fail-our family's well-being depended on [our success]."
The days of living on macaroni and cheese are now a distant memory for the McGuires, whose family now includes twins, born in 1997. This year, sales for their franchise are on track to reach $2 million.
Money isn't the only measure of their success. When a devastating fire struck their warehouse last year, members of the Champaign community as well as other Servpro franchisees helped the McGuires rebuild their warehouse. Looking toward the future, the McGuires are rich in more ways than one.
Eileen Rogers, 41
Allegra Print & Imaging
When Eileen Rogers first entered the Allegra Print & Imaging center in Scottsdale, Arizona, her only intention was to make copies of her resume. A recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Rogers had just moved to Arizona and was looking for employment.
The then-owner of the center was looking for a salesperson and partner to help grow the company, and Rogers fit the bill. She began working at the center and, within a short time, set up a sweat equity agreement to earn a percentage of the business. "If I got sales up to a certain level in a certain amount of time, I could buy 10 percent, and then I had an option on the next 10 percent," Rogers explains. She continued accruing percentages of the business until 1996, when she bought out the remainder of her aging partner's shares.
When Rogers began working at the center, there were a few things she needed to learn. "I didn't know the difference between printing and copying, or anything about the technical or production aspect of the company," she explains. "What I did know was I enjoyed helping people, and sales are very natural for me."
Rogers did learn how to operate the technical side of the business, and though she now focuses on her sales and customer relations strengths, "understanding the production process turns out to be an advantage at this point," she says. "I no longer have to do it, but I'm able to relate with the staff that does."
"What I've built is not so much a graphic design and printing company. What I've built is a vehicle for my life."
Rogers is also pleased to relate to the people and organizations within her community. Each year, her Allegra center makes donations of supplies and printing services to local charities and nonprofit organizations. In 1999, the store created the Baby Drive, a holiday event that collects diapers and other baby products for homeless families and domestic violence victims. Last year, $14,000 worth of items, including 20,000 diapers, were collected. This year, the store is hoping to collect 50,000 diapers.
Rogers was given the Athena Award last year by the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce. "That was probably the moment in my career when I felt the most successful," she says. "Being recognized by peers and others in the community for not only being a good businessperson, but mentoring women and serving the community, that's such a big part of my life in this company."
And Rogers is grateful for the lifestyle this $1.65-million-grossing franchise has awarded her, including a recent trip to Chile and two dogs, three cats and a fish. "What I've built is not so much a graphic design and printing company," she says. "What I've built is a vehicle for my life."
- Allegra Print & Imaging
(800) 242-7244, firstname.lastname@example.org
- McAlister's Deli
3604 Fernandina Rd., Columbia, SC 29210, email@example.com
- Servpro of Champaign-Urbana
3813 N. Cunningham, Urbana, IL 61802