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Franchise Development Leaders: Tom Petska of Ideal Image MedSpa

As Vice President of Franchise Sales for the aesthetic treatment brand, staying tuned in to the trends and best practices of franchise development is a priority of Petska’s.

Ideal Image MedSpa takes the concept of beauty services and amplifies it with an emphasis on non-invasive aesthetic treatments such as laser hair removal, injectables and fat reduction. The brand was founded 18 years ago by two chiropractors and has since grown to more than 140 locations throughout the United States and Canada. 

After only scaling via company-owned locations for the past 12 years, Ideal Image MedSpa has now elected to pursue growth through franchising and is currently seeking new franchisees across the U.S., making Vice President of Franchise Sales Tom Petska’s role an integral one to the brand’s future.

1851: Tell us about yourself and your company.

Petska: I’m currently the Vice President of Franchise Sales at Ideal Image MedSpa. I help spearhead the new franchise program and franchisee expansion. From identifying and sourcing prospective new franchisees to improving operational performance, I work closely on the expansion of our company franchise footprint. My experience in the franchise industry has expanded over a decade in a variety of organizations—from financial companies to national restaurants. I helped Dickey’s BBQ, The Egg & I Restaurants and Jackson Hewitt, grow substantially in my time with the brands—I truly enjoy and love what I do. Plus, I get to meet a lot of great people and hear wonderful stories about life, overcoming hardship, dreams and success.

Ideal Image MedSpa, the nation’s leading skin, face and body med spa, performs more non-invasive aesthetic treatments in med spa categories, including laser hair removal, injectables, body shaping and skin rejuvenation, than any other med spa in the United States. Our clients work with a team of highly-trained medical professionals and skin, face and body specialists to develop personalized treatment plans consisting of FDA-approved, gentle-touch procedures that deliver natural-looking results without the need for invasive surgery. 

1851: How did you first get into franchising?

Petska: I got into franchising completely by accident, actually. I am what most folks call a “serial entrepreneur,” starting numerous new companies for more than 25 years. About 14 years ago, I had a job selling yachts and I sold one to a gentleman who had been in franchising for 30 years. He was in need of a partner to help develop a restaurant brand nationally. His wife told me, “If you can sell him a boat, you can sell a franchise – you should consider the opportunity. I know you will do well; you care about people.” I resigned from the yacht broker a week later and the following weekend I was in Boston at a franchise show with a notepad and some brochures, learning the ropes the hard way. The last 14 years in franchising have been a great success for me personally, and I enjoy every minute of it.

1851: What do you love about the industry?

Petska: I love the challenges and the feeling of accomplishment when the job is done right. The process of earning someone’s trust, educating them on franchising opportunities, helping them invest their savings and create a new future for themselves is very rewarding. Franchising offers an opportunity for those who want to become business owners but might not have all the right answers. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel. I tell people “It’s not right for you” more than I say “Yes, let’s do this,” because I want them to make the right decision, and sometimes hearing a “no” is the right thing to do.

1851: What do you wish that you could change about the industry? 

Petska: I wish more franchise brands looked at franchisees as the key to the company’s success, rather than just a royalty payment. Franchisees are the key to keeping the brand in the franchise business. There are some great franchise systems out there and the brands that really care about their franchisees are the ones that have a tendency to succeed. Poor performance comes from brands that place strict limitations or requirements on their franchises, or simply don’t value them as much as they should. I’ve worked for a number of franchisors that have been “franchisee-centric,” meaning they realize the franchisee is the life-blood of the brand. By treating them accordingly, they know they will see happier franchisees who are willing to go the extra mile, open more locations and therefore build successful companies. 

1851: What is the biggest challenge franchisors are currently facing in franchise development and what are you doing to overcome it?

Petska: The economy is definitely the biggest challenge. Before 2008, qualified candidates for new franchise development and funding were readily available. After 2008, everything, including expansion, was uncertain for both existing franchisees and franchisors. We had to reinvent the process and align with reduced costs, smaller locations, etc. Now our economy is booming, but we’re still facing problems. All of the great sites that were vacant are now gone, and therefore site selection has become a hard focal point. There’s a higher demand for contractors and their costs have increased, as have the prices for materials and equipment. These factors determine what to focus on, including what we specify, acquiring, location and growth. When you get to a point where you have to accept the “No, this is as affordable as it gets,” you’ve done your job.

Finding the right marketing and advertising approach is also ever-changing. The landscape here moves at light-speed and every retailer or brand out there is trying to stay ahead of the curve by re-inventing new strategies sometimes weekly. We have to be adaptable to the markets as they constantly evolve.

1851: What do you think the biggest trend in franchise development will be in 2020?

Petska: Health and beauty and possibly senior care will be the biggest trending industries in franchise development in 2020. There are a lot of great brands in the food and service industries, but future existing multi-unit franchise owners and new franchisees are looking forward. It’s no longer about the best burger.

We are now in an aging society and we are collectively more careful about our health and fitness goals, as well as our appearance. For us, there were only three franchise systems comparable to ours in the last few years. I feel that’s going to change. Ideal Image MedSpa is the most established and largest franchise system in the med spa industry. Earlier this year, we reinvigorated our franchise program after 12 years and are excited to offer more opportunities to potential franchisees.

1851: What makes a great franchisee?

Petska: The qualities of a great franchisee are drive; sense of self; humility; humor; and the ability to listen, follow directions and lead by example. Franchisees have to be okay with being told what to do and how to do it, but also be strong enough to stand up and state what’s wrong when something is. The most important thing, though, is the ability to follow a system. The whole premise of owning a franchise is to be guided to success by a team of professionals and support that they would not have had access to alone. I’ve seen many franchisees come into a system and try to change everything—that’s not what any franchisor looks for.

1851: What’s the No. 1 thing that sells franchises?

Petska: The No. 1 thing that sells franchises comes in two parts, because you cannot have one without the other. First, it’s the overall desire of someone to better themselves and become a business owner in an industry they can love. Second, it’s industry trends, past success, uniqueness of a concept and, of course, the desire to be part of a successful brand.