Invisible Fence Brand Sparked the Entrepreneur in This Pet Enthusiast After initially rejecting the family business, Justin Ward is now helping hundreds of pet owners as the head of the family franchise while juggling several other business ventures.
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 email@example.com.
Initially, Justin Ward of Delmarva, Md., wanted nothing to do with being a part of the family business, an Invisible Fence Brand franchise, after he graduated high school. His father started the business in 2000 after looking for a way to retire from the masonry industry. But when his father got sick in 2010, it was up to the younger Ward to either take over daily operations or sell the business.
"That sparked a fire underneath me to become an entrepreneur and not only run daily operations for Invisible Fence Brand but also for the other business investments I have in operation today," Ward says.
Related: 6 Reasons You Can't Go Wrong With the Pet Industry
Now 23, Ward still runs daily operations for the franchise, which covers territories in Maryland and Delaware. Invisible Fence Brand is part of the Radio Systems Corporation, a leader in cat and dog brands such as Sportdog, Premier and Petsafe. Invisible Fence Brand helps pet owners discover a lifestyle of peaceful co-habitation with their animals by designing solutions that protect pets from behaviors that can be harmful to themselves, people, other pets or property.
Ward's other business ventures include everything from farming and construction to stock investments. He's involved in the Professional Bull Riders Association as a stock contractor, supplying bulls to events like the one recently held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
But he says it's the family business he once rejected that keeps his passion for entrepreneurship alive.
"What I find interesting in the pet industry is, for one, it is one of the top industries out there," Ward says. "Two is that everyone has a pet, and you connect with everyone on an emotional level, which is the best way to network and learn from others. I think that keeps me attached to the business and leaves me with that rewarding feeling."
Below, Ward explains more on the challenges and rewards of running an Invisible Fence Brand franchise.
Name: Justin Ward
Franchise owned: Invisible Fence Brand of Delmarva, serving Maryland and Delaware
Q: How long have you owned a franchise?
I have been an Invisible Fence Brand franchise owner for 15 years.
Q: Why franchising?
Franchises are brand-established. Franchises have the people in place to kick start everything. I myself go out and do the leg work (sales, service, installation) every day, because that what I'm good at, and I don't have to worry about the other factors of running a corporate business.
Q: What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
We were family-owned, so I was in school. From the day after graduating, I became owner in the franchise.
Q: Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I didn't have a choice in what franchise my family was getting into, but I can tell you my father chose this franchise because it wasn't too labor intensive and because of the good people and good benefits.
Q: How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Starting cost was $125,000. The business itself -- customer base, retail, license, insurance, franchise fee -- was $75,000. Equipment -- work truck, tools, office supplies, etc. -- was $50,000.
Related: How to Start a Pet Business
Q: Where did you get most of your advice / do most of your research?
Advice mostly came from people within the franchises already, and our distributor played a big role in teaching the ins and out of the Invisible Fence Brand way. Today it comes from networking local businesses, speaking with Fortune 100 companies, reading Entrepreneur.com, Inc., and Business Insider daily.
Q: What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
With this franchise, it was purchased from another franchise owner who had failed to successfully run his company, so the challenge was to get our customers to be happy with the Invisible Fence Brand again. Some customer failed to trust us, because they didn't have any good experiences with the previous owner. But putting a five-year turn-around plan in place changed everything! It's kind of like flipping a house -- put a budget, marketing, timeframe, etc. together, so we can make X.
Also, when it comes to a franchising, there are a lot of rules, expectations and guidelines which can really hurt your bottom line -- but they are also there to protect the brand.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Make sure you do your research, and make sure you fit the franchise. Have the cash up front -- don't go into debt! Look outside your company to Fortune 500 companies to pick up new marketing ideas, expansion ideas and how to go above and beyond the expectations. You have to believe in what your doing and realize that the sky is the limit, and once you do that, you do have to fight your franchise rules and guidelines (to an extent) to be able to grow.
Hustling 24/7 has made this franchise successful. You need to go to local events and veterinarians. Advertise more then you think you should ever do -- get flyers and pens in local businesses and home shows. Selling things at home shows besides your base products will not only pay for your entry but expand further operations. For an example, we sell dog and cat toys at our shows along with pushing for our ultimate solution, which is the Invisible Fence.
I've learned that everything that is accomplished is because of family and having team members that are part of that family. Everyone is equal, and nobody is left in the dark. Everyone knows what is going on -- and that is how our customers are treated too.
Q: What's next for you and your business?
My younger brothers are coming into the company, so we will keep growing and keep buying Invisible Fence Brand dealers. We're know how to flip these Invisible Fence Brand franchises from failures to success just by treating our customers like family. If you look at the McDonald's and Burger King franchise tycoons, the ones making the money own 100 to 200 stores -- so that is our ultimate goal.
Related: No Sibling Rivalry Here: These Franchisees Are Happily in Business Together