All the Reasons They Bought A Franchise
Printed in USA Today
by Nancy Rathbun Scott
When Bennett Copp lost his job as a senior corporate executive, he had a country club membership, two-point-five kids and a college-educated wife with a red Volvo 940 turbo in the garage. Copp credits his wife, Patty, with saving his life. "I think you are as good as you thought you were the day before you were downsized," she told him, as they considered their options.
The plan back then was to find a way to "survive." After extensive research and consideration, they ended up buying a Charley's Steakery franchise. They liked Charley's because "It's a company with a great growth future. We found that Charley's offered a new upscale opportunity that fit perfectly into the niche of serving health-conscious, calorie-conscious clients and would compete very well with all the older, more mature businesses."
Now-six years later-Bennett and Patty operate a million-dollar store, with plans for two more Charley's on the drawing board. Their life today is about everything but economic survival. "It's about giving back something to all the employees who helped us thrive during a very difficult time."
Why do people buy a franchise?
Ask an expert and you'll find that dreams of owning a franchise vary as much as the franchise owners themselves. Howard Bassuk is president and founder of Franchise Network, a consulting firm that counsels people about franchise purchasing. "The only thing that all of these thousands of franchises have in common is that they use franchising as a marketing strategy, but they are as diverse and different as any group of people or companies could be. That's why franchise ownership is such an individual search."
Bassuk has heard many reasons for wanting to buy a franchise. "Some people want to make a difference; others want to build an empire or spend time with family. Some people want recognition. Or they want the freedom to go and travel and paint. Or they want flexibility, or a sense of accomplishment, or a secure future."
Economic stats tell part of the story
In the United States, there are 600,000-plus franchised businesses, with thousands more worldwide. Franchising pulls in one trillion dollars in retail sales, nearly half of all U.S. retail sales annually. Franchising enjoys an estimated 12 percent growth rate in the number of franchised units each year. Other statistics may be even more important. More than nine of ten franchise owners surveyed by the Gallup Organization on behalf of the International Franchise Association Education Foundation, said they considered their franchise to be either somewhat or very successful. Nearly two-thirds of the franchise owners said they would purchase or invest in the same franchise business again, if given the opportunity.
And yet-when all is said and done-even these statistics don't tell the story. Because the reason most people buy a franchise comes down to personal dreams.
"Let's make a difference."
When Bruce Binkley and his wife Camella chose to purchase an Express Personnel franchise, they had one goal in mind. "We wanted to be able to do something that would help people," says Bruce, whose missionary zeal drove him to find a business that would support ministry by himself and others. This employment agency franchise fit the bill. "I realized the pressures that people feel when they don't have a steady income to support their families. I knew that this was something we could do to help people-not to make money, but to see how many people we could get out to work in good jobs. That's the driving force that keeps us in it, because, believe me, there are a lot easier ways to make money."
Anthony Brown and his business partner Kevin Boger-who purchased an Athlete's Foot franchise right out of college-wanted to be able to give something back to their neighborhood. "The shopping center where our store is located was in a Jacksonville, FL, enterprise zone that was undergoing major redevelopment," Brown says. "What was 'high risk' territory for others was a prime area for us."
Connection to the neighborhood has brought many rewards. "I can work close to my home and family. Plus, I grew up with most of my customers, so they helped me recruit employees."
The partners have been in businesses less than a year, but Brown says owning the store is more fun than work. "I'm 25 years old, I have my own business, and I love tennis shoes. In this neighborhood, we have a lot of younger kids that come through. We're playing with the kids all day. It's just wonderful. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world."
"I want my work to build value."
Bill Shuman, owner of the Cleveland Prime Business Communications franchise, connected with this long-distance communications service company because he wanted his professional efforts to add value to his own life. "So many times people entrust everything they have to developing a corporation, yet the people who own it don't really care," says Shuman who signed on with PBC May 1. "TELCO (PBC's parent company) offered an equity program that protected us against being terminated without value, a very fair commission rate based on a competitive long-distance rate, and a real chance for growing personal wealth."
Ed Woltz sees it the same way. If you can make money for your employer, why not try making it for yourself? That was Woltz's reasoning when he gave up his position with Coca Cola to buy a Precision Tune franchise. From the beginning, though, Woltz knew that one franchise wasn't enough for him. "I didn't want to be an owner-manager; I wanted multiple units. Rather than trying to make a lot of money out of one unit, it's easier to make a little from each of many units-it spreads out the risk." Within two years of his first opening, Woltz had launched a second store and purchased his third, a used franchise. "It was an easy package to put together and easy to maintain," he says.
Woltz now owns five Precision Tune stores within a 150 mile radius. "If you are buying a job, you are a one-unit operator. If you have multiple units, you have to look at the big picture." Like other empire builders in franchising, it's the big picture that attracts Woltz, who thinks 12 stores would be ideal.
"Flexibility feels good."
Not everyone franchise owners wants to build an empire. In fact, many entrepreneurs are attracted to the work-schedule flexibility that comes with a single, thriving business. Howard Bassuk talks about two people who went into the same dry cleaning business-one built an empire of multiple stores, but the other made a success of a single store. "He makes all the money he needs to make and-at two in the afternoon-he gets to go home and spend time with his family. Each went into business with a different strategy and they were both able to achieve it."
Bassuk notes that flexibility means different things to different people. "Some people who buy a franchise want to be able to travel or to paint. "Typically, I tell a client that you should expect to work as hard or harder than you have ever worked in your life. But there are exceptions. People who already have a job and want to ensure their retirement with an extra investment can buy into a franchise company like Great Clips or Baskin Robbins, whose franchise owners can be absentee. These investors hire managers to run the business."
What does the dream look like?
The reasons people buy a franchise may not be the reasons they stick with it. That's why Bassuk says it's important for would-be entrepreneur's to evaluate not only their initial dream, but also to envision what a successful long-term business looks like to them. Just ask Bennett Copp, whose first priority was economic survival when he and his wife Patty purchased their Charley's Steakery franchise. "Today our goal is taking care of the people that have brought us this far-to pay back some of these hard-working people who enabled me to start a new career in my late 40s and helped me preserve my family in a time of turmoil." Copp is looking into establishing two more restaurants and empowering his employees to run and buy down the businesses when he retires. "The finest people I've ever met in my life are working in a restaurant right now. I want to help them buy and invest in their own business."
A word to the would-be
Bassuk jokes that Franchise Network is in the business of selling risk rationalization. "We tell people, 'If you could be successful working for others or for yourself, who would you rather work for?' Most people say they want to work for themselves, and yet most never do. When I ask why, the reason usually comes down to risk and affordability."
But, the act of buying a franchise is neither secure nor insecure, according to Bassuk. The trick lies in making something of the opportunity. Bassuk offers this iffy reassurance. "If you thoroughly research a series of franchise choices and are honest about who you are and what you're good at-and if you evaluate who has been successful and who has not been successful in franchises you're looking at-and if you are like the successful people-you have a good chance of succeeding."
Express-ly Choosing Their Franchise
Bruce Binkley had worked as director of operations for an international ministry for ten years and been perfectly happy. Then, in 1990, he started getting "that little stirring that lets you know something's going to happen," he says. What happened to Binkley was Express Personnel but it didn't happen over night.
Binkley thought it would be nice to know he couldn't be downsized. He also wanted work that would allow him the freedom to travel for ministry. "If I felt like I wanted to help my friend in Zimbabwe, I wanted a business that would support my ability to be able to go over there. At the same time, I had to have something that would take care of my family now and in the future, as our parents get older and we get older-and, hopefully, provide something for our children to carry on."
Business ownership seemed like the answer, but Binkley and his wife Camella didn't particularly consider franchising at first. Still, Binkley was attracted to a business with the kinks worked out. When a trusted friend urged him to look at Express Personnel he researched the company and decided to visit. "They basically offered everything we needed-the support, lessened risk, and freedom to run our own business. They also gave us the potential of growth, and-as long as we didn't violate the franchise agreement-we could always renew and continue the relationship."
A conversation with company founder Bob Funk locked the deal. "He operates Express Personnel on the principle that the more you give to someone, the more you are going to get back. We knew we could work with a guy like that."
That was in 1995. The Binkleys now own four franchise units in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. "I never dreamed of getting into this kind of business, but it's right where we're at in ministry-helping people. We realize that there are people we can't help-we can't control how people feel when they come in through our doors, for example. But we can make them feel a little bit better by the time they leave, just by treating them with respect, and genuinely trying to help, whether we get them a job or just treat them with dignity and respect. I attribute our success to our approach-we deal with people as we would want to be dealt with."

® copyright 1999 Nancy Rathbun Scott
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