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A Day in the Life Tag along with these three franchisees for a day, and see what it's really like to own your own franchise.

By April Y. Pennington

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You may have noticed the recent spate of reality shows following the lives of certain celebrities or people with particularly interesting jobs. As the cameras trail, the glitz and glamour is peeled away to reveal a more realistic view of what life is like for the subject. And more often than not, we see it takes hard work, self-discipline and an organized schedule to be successful.

Before investing in a franchise, don't you wish you could know what it's really like to oversee an operation? Beyond the brochures, propaganda and franchisor spiel, no one can explain what it's like to run a franchise like a franchisee. We found three franchise owners who were kind enough to pull back their franchise curtains to give you a peek into what a day in the life of owning their franchise entails. Roll tape!

Pet Project

Today, Nancy Roddy, owner of Camp Bow Wow in Castle Rock, Colorado, joins her staff at the 6:30 a.m. kickoff of the dog boarding and day-camp franchise, when the dog boarders are let into the outdoor areas of the 10,000-square-foot building before breakfast. The boarders are digesting their meals in their "private cabins" as the day-care dogs start arriving at 7 a.m. "This is always my favorite part," says Roddy, 42, who points out one of her favorite dogs, Buster the boxer.

In 2003, Roddy boarded her beagle, Daisy, at the Denver Camp Bow Wow. The positive experience prompted her to become a franchisee later that year. "They made me feel like my dog was the most special dog on earth," recalls Roddy. She now strives to provide that same comforting feeling to all her clients.

Though it took time to transition from the quiet tranquility of her former job--working at home, doing accounting for her parents' oil and gas company--to the rowdy, bark-filled Camp Bow Wow building, she says, "Every time I see tails wagging, I just smile." Roddy notes that the franchisor helped her get her business up and running--including assisting her with securing her location and certifying her in pet first aid. Franchise representatives also assisted her during her opening week.

Roddy now counts about 40 to 50 regulars, while averaging about 20 to 25 day-care dogs a day, so she sees plenty of wagging tails. She was also used to having weekends and holidays off, which isn't possible with this franchise.

During the day, when dogs misbehave, "we discipline them with a squirt bottle, or [we] bang two metal bowls to break up a fight," says Roddy. She and her staff clean and disinfect the kennels, prepare meals, do paperwork and conduct interviews for prospective day-campers and boarders.

Once day-campers start getting picked up at 4:30 p.m., Roddy and her employees begin the daily spray-down of the yards. Other chores, like trash disposal, mopping and sweeping, must be completed before the 7 p.m. closing time. Boarders are taken outside for their last bathroom break before retreating to their cabins for treats and bedtime. Finally, the Camp Bow Wow staff puts on soothing classical music to relax the tired pooches and turns off the lights so they can slumber in a calm, temperature-controlled environment.

Even if Roddy isn't covering a shift, she is on site every day to make sure everything's going smoothly, often with Daisy and her other beagle, Cooper, in tow. And when she's home doing bookkeeping, she watches via the webcam on Camp Bow Bow's website. Roddy acknowledges the dog business requires hard work, and finding employees who truly love working with dogs can sometimes be a challenge, but offers, "It's such a happy place. It's fun to know the dogs are having such a good time."

Computer Can-Do

After Barbara Gallo's children start their school day, shefocuses on her other kids--students of her Computertots/ComputerExplorers franchise. She starts by checking messages, e-mails andthe online bulletin boards around 8:30 a.m. from her home office inBeacon Falls, Connecticut.

Gallo, 41, decided on the tech education franchise because ofher background in early childhood development and her computerskills. More important, the franchise allows her to spend more timeat home with her kids, something her former job did not. Today,Gallo is stopping work early to attend her daughter's trackmeet; other days, she's able to enjoy her pastimes of horsebackriding and running.

While she swears no day is the same, today, she's takingcare of work primarily in her office, as she does three days aweek. She calls day-care centers or schools, mails preliminaryinformation to directors of organizations interested in meetingwith her, and writes proposals for those who've already agreedto add Computertots to their curriculum.

When she's not in the office, Gallo spends her whole daycold calling. After mapping out a number of day-care centers orschools, Gallo drives to the locations and talks to the directorsabout Computertots. "I just stop by to keep my name outthere," she says.

Occasionally, one of her eight regu-lar teachers is unable toteach a class. If Gallo can't find a suitable substitute, shepacks up her laptop, software and handouts, and heads to thefacility to teach it herself. Each Computertots franchisee needs toknow how to teach all the classes offered.

Gallo doesn't have a teacher to handle some of the moretechnical after-school or camp programs like robotics, so she justplans on teaching them herself. "You really have to know whatyou're doing, know the program and be able to manage aclassroom of 10 to 15 kids," says Gallo, who offers more than20 different classes a week at 25 different locations. The basicComputertots class runs a half-hour, while after-school programsand summer camps may be several hours a day for a week, or once aweek in a multiweek session.

Gallo's husband, Greg, bought the franchise with her, butcontinues to work for the state of Connecticut and as a part-timepolice officer. At 46, he's preparing for retirement, but thecouple is waiting for their franchise to be more financially securebefore Greg devotes himself to it full time. Meanwhile, he'shelping out in his off hours. He processes credit card payments andchecks, and before the monthly teacher/staff meetings, Gregorganizes the paperwork to hand out and the software programs theteachers need for their classes. Both husband and wife work onorganizing which programs to run at different locations. When theyoffer their summertime camp programs, including the robotics class,Greg will get the robotics sets organized. "It's kind ofcrazy," muses Barbara Gallo. "You do things you don'tthink you're going to do when you buy the business."

Today, Gallo finishes work around 5 p.m. But sometimes she hasto head back into her office after dinner and work a few morehours. Still, Gallo helps her children with homework or projectsbefore going back to work, creating a good balance between her workand family life. Says Gallo, "They know they can reach me ifthey need to, but they also understand if the door is closed,I'm working."

Organization is key for her and any Computertots franchisee.While franchisees may need to play the part of teacher, a businessbackground is helpful, especially when it comes to marketing. Nowshe's working with fellow franchisees in her state to promoteComputertots and sees that in teaching others, she's learned alot as well.

Food for Thought

Being on Arizona time may mean not worrying aboutdaylight-saving time changes, but Mark Roden always minds theclock. The multiunit Subway and Cold Stone Creamery franchiseerises by 5 a.m. to work out before starting the workday at his homeoffice. Since Subway's headquarters is in Connecticut, whichcan be two or three hours ahead, it's not unusual for Roden tohave conference calls scheduled as early as 6 or 7 a.m. He alsospends a solid 40 to 45 minutes checking e-mails from Subway, ColdStone, their organizations he's involved with, his officestaff, job applicants and more--all while eating breakfast."And if my 2-year-old is up," says Roden, 47, "herbreakfast, my e-mail and Barney are all going on at once."

He may now own 53 Arizona Subway restaurants and four Cold StoneCreameries, but Roden's path to multiunit glory began in 1987with the sudden death of his father. Roden, then a grocery storemanager, took time to examine what was important to him. Heremembers, "The last time I saw my father, he expressed adesire for my brother and me to take a shot at owning our ownbusiness." As fate would have it, a year later, Roden'sthen-brother-in-law asked him if he was interested in purchasing aSubway together. Roden agreed and managed to expand to animpressive three units within 71 days. From there, he just keptgrowing (his partner has since left).

Today, Roden leaves home around 8 a.m. for the office inPhoenix. He takes his first appointments at 9 a.m., meeting with avendor or supplier. On the few days a month he's blocked out tonot have appointments, he uses the morning to meet with his directreports, who must touch base with him weekly, preferablyface-to-face. Roden may discuss a variety of matters in thesemeetings, perhaps sign a contract--he's the only one in hisorganization authorized to do so--or even conduct an employeereview.

Once a month, he has a morning-long meeting with a core group of12: his Subway supervisors, his HR person, his accountant and hisassistant. With all his involvement with Subway and Cold Stone onthe corporate level, Roden is often privy to new changes he canshare with the others. He also tries to ensure they reach out anduse him as a resource rather than avoid him when issues arise."I view my position as philosophical," explains Roden."I set the tone for what we want to be as an organization, howwe want to treat our people. I'm fairly results-oriented, butfairly hands-off."

Roden likes to take his employees out or catch up with friendsat lunch, but often relents to meeting with outside vendors. As theafternoon arrives, Roden is already focused on completing anybusiness that might have to reach Subway before its East Coastclosing time. Then, Roden shifts his focus to West Coast'sclosing time.

Roden has almost 60 leases, and one always seems to be coming upfor renewal, so he often has to work with landlords on those deals.He also looks into travel arrangements for meetings, such as theSubway advertising meeting he's attending in California. In theafternoons, Roden also tries to visit one of his restaurants andactually work behind the counter. "I do that primarily to stayclose to the brand, not because they really need me there,"Roden says. After putting in some hands-on work, he ends hisworkday around 6 p.m., then returns home to spend a half- hour one-mail.

Roden's schedule may seem relentless, but it's a bigimprovement over his first year of franchising--he only took threedays off and even worked on Thanksgiving. "[On Thanksgiving,I] did pretty good business, but I learned that family is moreimportant than dollars," Roden reflects.

When other franchisees find out just how big of a multiunitoperator Roden is, there's always a similar reaction. Heacknowledges his operation has allowed him to acquire a"certain level of income," but doesn't want tomislead others to think bigger automatically means better."People are pushed into growth by a vision," says Roden."But quality of life can be a really important issue,[especially] when you're growing."

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