Two franchisees discuss the victories and pitfalls that come with scaling a franchise.
Unless you are an experienced multi-unit franchisee, most folks set out to open one franchise to test the waters. While this trial-and-error method works for some, it’s all crucial to know the milestones to hit before adding more units to a fleet. So when do you know it is the right time to expand?
Chad O’Leary opened his first Wireless Zone in Bangor, Maine, in September 2006. His location ended up being in the top 10 stores, so he chose to open a second location in the mall across the street a year later. In another year, he opened his third location, and then a year after that, a fourth. Two years later, he added a fifth under his watch. These slow and steady openings across Maine have been successful, but O’Leary observed that adding more locations is a tricky thing.
“You don’t want to expand too fast with growing pains or issues,” he said. “You really have to get your core down; your processes, expenses, dealing with the store and managing the stores well. Once you have this figured out, you can try to grow.”
He advises not taking too much on at once, taking time to ensure sure that you’re foundationally solid with secure cash flow before deciding to add another store.
“Anything you’re doing that isn’t the best process will be an intensified issue as you grow,” O’Leary said. “A small issue for one door can be a big issue for four doors.”
Another possible pitfall that O’Leary points out is skimping on staff. O’Leary initially thought that saving money on staff was a smart decision, but not having enough employees to serve the customers can hurt a business quickly, he quickly realized. Instead, he has been focusing on filling management roles to help aid in his growth to accomplish his five-year plan to add about four more stores and venturing outside of Maine.
Another company that understands the value of grooming its employees to grow in a positive way is TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®.
Jeff and Ryan Knowles’ father, Larry, purchased his first franchise in 1992 in Tampa, Fla. It was a small building on top of a gas station store, and they had one truck. Six years and six trucks later, Jeff relocated to help his father grow the business. Together, they grew the location to ten trucks. Brother Ryan joined the family business in 2001, expanding to 16 trucks, before deciding they needed a second office in 2007.
The Knowles’ purchased a second office in New Port Richey, Fla., that Ryan went to run while Jeff kept watch of the Tampa, Fla., territory. While growing the second location, the brothers began taking notice in their top-notch employees.
“We realized that we had hired some great employees and we realized that a lot of them have a lot of great experience,” said Ryan.
Deryk Shepherd was at the Tampa location before he went to college, and he came back to work for the company when he was done, but in a management capacity. The Knowles’ noticed Deryk’s skills and had him run a secondary office for the Tampa location for about a year. Because of his hard work, the brothers decided that they wanted to buy a third location for him to run; this led to the purchase of the Ocala Villages office in 2014.
In the meantime, Jeff and Ryan began working with another great employee, Randi Bloodworth, who is “just as great as Deryk,” according to Ryan.
Randi is now being groomed to run a fourth location with the Knowles team.
“I think for us, the most important thing to grow is finding the person you can trust, be confident that they can do a good job, grow the business, and take the horns and make it their own,” said Jeff.
“When we first started off, we never really considered opening a location with someone else who wasn’t in our family,” said Ryan. “Over time, as growth and success occurred, we saw some employees display great characteristics. We put trust in our employees and they’re doing a great job.”