Franchise Players: Why a Painting Franchise Was the Right Cultural Fit for This Veteran
Stephen Luxion knew CertaPro Painters was the right fit for him because of the tough-love culture, which reminded him of his Air Force roots.
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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.
After 30 years of commissioned service, Steve retired from running the Air Force ROTC program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. As a civilian, he was looking for a job that would allow him to continue to grow and lead teams; running a business seemed to fit the bill exactly. CertaPro Painters was the perfect fit for the veteran, with a collaborative, tough love culture that reminded him of his time in the Air Force. Here's what Luxion has learned.
Name: Stephen P. Luxion. My wife, Georgeann R. Luxion, is a co-owner.
Franchise owned: CertaPro Painters in Volusia County, Florida
How long have you owned a franchise?
I had been a commander/leader in the U.S. Air Force for the past 12 years and wanted to continue to grow and lead teams. I have four master degrees (one MBA in finance) and thought I should have the skills and knowledge necessary to be successful as an entrepreneur.
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What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I served 34 years in the U.S. Air Force primarily flying. I started as a computer engineer, then flew for almost 20 years. I started in the F-111 fighter-bomber, flew the F-14 Tomcat and EA-6B Prowler from carriers while on exchange with the U.S. Navy, and stood up the first armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) in the wake of 9/11. I am a combat aviator who has flown in all operations from Desert Shield/Desert Storm, to the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a colonel I started a NATO organization to transform and synchronize air and space power across the NATO alliance partners. I also established the first center for planning and executing cyber operations in conjunction with other joint military forces. I finished my career at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, leading AF ROTC Detachment 157, educating and training college students to be second lieutenants in the U.S. Air Force.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Primarily, it was a match in culture. When I met other franchisees, they were a lot like me… Type A, driven to succeed, but also very friendly. CertaPro franchisees do something very unique: they meet quarterly to review each other's financials, goals, and discuss what they want to work on. They hold each other accountable. This is very similar to what we did in fighter debriefings in the U.S. Air Force: debrief to make us all better (tough love).
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Probably close to $80,000.
Franchise fee (discounted for military vets… thank you CertaPro) $47,000
Information technology, software and hardware: $17,000
Home office-set-up $1,500
Sales & Marketing Material (vehicle wrap, signs, and promotional materials): $10,000
Travel, room & board for training: $1,500
Approximately another $3,000 on miscellaneous.
I was told to expect as much as another $30-35,000 in outlays over the first year… I think primarily for living expenses. Fortunately for me as a military veteran, I do have military retirement pay coming in that serves as a nice safety net.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Our franchise broker and other franchisees.
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What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The emotional ups and downs. While I expected hard work and frequently face longer hours in the military, it can be tough getting going, especially a new business where you are responsible for everything and do not yet have a staff to help share the load.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
First, make a real honest assessment of why you want to own a franchise and have your own business. If you are getting into business for the wrong reasons and you're blind to the hard work, you may not make it. Second, make sure you have enough capital to live for at least 3 to 6 months and aggressively spend on marketing and sales. Make sure your franchise is a good fit (culture, capital requirements, and work load). While a franchise has a system in place you are still the owner and have to make decisions, take risks, and work hard. Finally, FOLLOW THE SYSTEM! You paid for a franchise to take advantage of learning from other peoples mistakes and not having to make them all yourself… you have got to trust the system.
What's next for you and your business?
Growth! I cannot wait until the business grows enough that I can start hiring staff and growing a team. I see this as one of my core competencies and I really enjoy leading, mentoring and working with others; it energizes me. I want teammates to grow and share success with!
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