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Freedom in Franchising

by Heidi Lynn Russell, Contributing Editor

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Article Sponsored by: CCSD

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You might make more money on your business idea with a franchise team than going it alone.

At the North Pole, Alaska (yes, the North Pole), the roads are covered in gravel. “Salt doesn’t work up here,” says former Air Force SMSgt Kevin Tennant. “Everywhere you look, there are broken windshields. No one was repairing them.”

So Tennant and his wife Tamera opened their own glass repair business in 1998. He was on active duty until 2004. She handled service calls for the business, and by the time he retired from the Air Force, they were doing about $250,000 in annual sales. “I never had a moment to rest. I was working 14-to-16-hour days until I was retired,” Tennant says.

However, after he was out of the Air Force and doing the glass repair business full time, Tennant was frustrated that he couldn’t push past the $250,000 sales mark. “I had outgrown my knowledge, and I outgrew myself. I needed training to take things to the next level,” he says.

He found Glass Doctor, a franchise owned by The Dwyer Group (which actually launched the VetFran program). “They had a marketing and legal team, buying power, vendors, nationwide contracts, teaching me to do payroll, keeping the books. These are things the Air Force doesn’t teach you,” Tennant says.

His sales have grown to more than $1 million annually.

That growth would not have been possible without the franchise fees that Tennant pays into the system for the extra “experts” who are at his disposal, he says. “When you pay the fees, it’s the cost of hiring another person, but that one person is the VP and President of Glass Doctor,” he says.

Cresanti at the IFA says another benefit to franchise ownership is that customers will recognize the name. In essence, you belong to a recognized club of experts.

“As a franchise owner, you pay into a national advertising fund, so your brand gets built. A customer opts for the known name and for someone who has a guarantee. That’s the stuff that we see over and over again,” he says.

You can spin a “date night” into a full-time business partnership with your spouse.

It was literally a date night in 2014 that inspired Waylon White and his wife, Victoria, to open Pinot’s Palette in Lawrence, KS. Victoria had been to an event at a Pinot’s Palette, and she dragged Waylon there for their night out. “I shuffled my feet into the door, but a few minutes into it, I loved it,” he says.

Waylon White was medically discharged from the Marines as a Capt in 2008, after suffering injuries and burns during a truck bombing attack in Iraq. The Whites have found the enjoyment they give others in their franchise business infuses their own lives with beauty and peace. They opened their location in May 2015, and Waylon is the franchisor’s first veteran owner.

Pinot’s Palette is a “paint-and-sip experience.” People drink wine while receiving a painting lesson from an in-house artist. “What motivated me was the effect it had on me. Everyone has a creative niche, and for me, it was that achievement feeling. I wanted to share that with others,” Victoria says. “It’s something different for a night out. You go in, and for ours, it’s a BYOB. We provide plate and utensils, and an artist walks you through the painting. We listen to music and have fun, walking around and talking.”

Today, Victoria runs the day-to-day business, and Waylon handles back-office issues while simultaneously working as a full-time software engineer. “I’m the numbers guy, and it’s a perfect partnership, because we each have our own strengths,” he says.

Most important, he advises that you find an idea that sparks excitement or enjoyment – like a date night.

“Entrepreneurship in and of itself is not for the faint of heart. It really is feast or famine. One day, you’re jumping up and down, the next day, it’s, ‘What are we going to do?’ It really is a roller coaster ride, so it has to be a passion,” White says.

You can “trade up” to another franchise if the first isn’t a good fit.

Navy LCDR Ed Vargas was a surface warfare officer and exited after a 22 year career in 2010. He and his wife Amy initially ran a painting franchise from 2014 to 2015, but the business model didn’t suit them.

“What I was looking at with the painting franchise was the project management side of it, but I didn’t have employees. The company was using a subcontracted model. Things are different in the civilian world vs. the military. With subcontractors, you can’t tell them how to dress, and there are a lot of rules you can’t do, because they’re not your employees. Nowadays, anyone can pick up a brush and call themselves a painter,” Vargas says.

It just so happened that the painting franchise was bought out by The Dwyer Group, a holding company of 11 service-based franchise companies. Vargas was watching an episode of “Undercover Boss” in which one of Dwyer’s companies, Mr. Appliance, was profiled. He was excited about the changes under Dwyer. He also liked what he saw in the Mr. Appliance way of doing business.

“That opened up one avenue for us. We started talking to the Mr. Appliance people, and they were trying to find a solution for the painting franchise for us. They gave us money for our franchise, and we bought a Mr. Appliance franchise,” he says. He and Amy opened the new business in May 2016.
“It’s an employee-run model instead of subcontractors. They’re part of the company, we can hire, and there is a certain 
way we do things. We have more control,” Vargas says.

Mary Thompson is COO of The Dwyer Group and a veteran Marine Corps Capt who exited in 1992. She is also former president of Mr. Rooter, another Dwyer company. A corporation’s values will set the tone for your overall franchising experience, she says.

“We breathe values. It’s about operating in a responsible manner above the line, treating others as you want to be treated, listening to intent and doing something about it. We tend to bring people to us who are drawn to the same values. So before you say, ‘This is a cool concept,’ get to know the people and their values. That’s more important,” she says.

Heidi Lynn Russell writes about employment and business issues.

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