Ending Soon! Save 33% on All Access

He Got Bored With Retirement. Now He's Selling $18 Million Annually. Don Lanier was ready for a change, and that pushed him to succeed. Here's how he did it.

By Kim Kavin Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the July 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Honest Abe Roofing

When Don Lanier retired in 2017, he and his wife moved into an RV and relocated from California to Indiana. But RV life was cold and cramped, and they decided to build a house. To get a construction loan, the bank wanted Lanier to show some income, so Lanier decided to go back to work. He applied for a sales job with Honest Abe Roofing, but when the hiring executive noticed Lanier's background in sales and home improvement, he thought he might be able to do more. He brought Lanier to the attention of the company's founder and CEO Kevin Newton.

"We told him, you can roof and make a living, or you can have roofers working for you and make a living," Newton says. Lanier chose the latter option: In 2018, he became Honest Abe's first-ever franchisee (they've since expanded to 21 locations), and has held the top revenue spot ever since. His Evansville, Indiana, location reached $10.2 million in sales by the end of 2022, and he just opened his second location, which his son runs in Louisville, Kentucky. Lanier is projecting $18 million in sales between both locations by the end of 2023.

Related: 4 Reasons New Franchisees Fail (and How to Succeed)

Here, he shares three of his core strategies for success.

1. Run ads on local television.

Online ads, sales promotions, and billboards are good, Lanier says, but local TV ads convert better. "You're already on the second step of the sales funnel by picking up the phone and calling me," he says. "That's different from clicking on something." He invests in 10-, 15-, and 30-second ads on four local TV channels. "They're running over and over and over."

2. Incentivize your salespeople.

Lanier seeks out competitive people for his sales department and then creates monthly, quarterly, and annual competitions for them. For instance, $300,000 in sales equals a plaque on the wall. "If one gets it on, everybody else is like, 'Heck no, you're not going to top me,'" he says. As the sales figures go up, the plaques get bigger. For salespeople who set all-time records, Lanier has prizefighter-style belts custom-made.

3. Respect and care for employees.

Lanier builds his team's loyalty by taking care of them. For example, when his office manager's work was slipping, he spoke to her — and learned her grandfather had just died. "I told her to take four or five days that I paid her for, so she could go and get some closure," he says. "You have to give people time to get things right before you cut them loose. Your personal life will affect your work life if it's not in order."

Related: 4 Tips for Creating a Strong Franchise Infrastructure

The Franchisor's Take

How does Honest Abe Roofing spot an amazing potential franchisee?

< Founder and CEO Kevin Newton says he looks for an unexpected quality: anger. He wants people who are mad enough about their present situation — maybe because they're tired of working for someone else, or they want more financial autonomy — that they'll work toward changing it.

"Nothing changes in your life or my life, ever, until you get angry," Newton says. "When things are just not going well, the strong fight. When anger creeps in, they're able to continue to fight."

In Lanier, Newton saw a person who seemed to be struggling with retirement and angry about wanting more control of his destiny. "This isn't about Don being good at looking at KPIs," Newton says. "That crap can all be learned."

Kim Kavin was an editorial staffer at newspapers and magazines for a decade before going full-time freelance in 2003. She has written for The Washington Post, NBC’s ThinkThe Hill and more about the need to protect independent contractor careers. She co-founded the grassroots, nonpartisan, self-funded group Fight For Freelancers.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Business News

TikTok Reportedly Laid Off a 'Large Percentage' of Employees as the App's Fate in the U.S. Remains Unclear

Laid-off TikTok employees were notified Wednesday night through Thursday morning.

Business News

Four Seasons Orlando Responds to Viral TikTok: 'There's Something Here For All Ages'

The video has amassed over 45.4 million views on TikTok.

Business News

More People Are Exploring Entrepreneurship Because of This Unexpected Reason

More new business applications were filed in 2023 than in any other year so far.

Personal Finance

This Investment Bundle Includes a Trading Course and Stock Screener Tool for $150

Approach the stock market with an increased understanding.

Growing a Business

5 Strategies to Know As You Scale Your Business

Scaling a service-based company requires a comprehensive approach that goes beyond simply increasing revenue. It requires careful planning, strategic decision-making and a deep understanding of market dynamics.