From teenage franchise salesman to franchisor and today aiding in concepts’ growth, SMB Franchise Advisors leverages a lifetime of experience
While most Pace University students in the late 80’s and early 90’s adorned their dorm walls with posters of rock stars, supermodels, or sports idols, Steve Beagelman entered his freshman year with a very unique decoration: Hagstrom maps covered in push pins.
The push pins were to mark franchise development sales the teenager was working on or had completed. So, while interior decorating may not have been his calling, Steve Beagelman was destined to do great things in the franchise industry.
The President and CEO of SMB Franchise Advisors has helped and continues to help emerging franchisors realize their growth goals. This includes everything from advising during the FDD creation process in partnership with franchise attorneys, drafting and finalizing of manuals, education on the ins and outs of franchising, creating sales processes and refining the Discovery Day approach, and generally guiding them through the process. Additionally, Beagelman and his growing team also work with established franchisors aiming to break through a plateau and reach the next stage of growth and success.
Beagelman’s experience in the franchise world began when he was barely old enough to drive. His father owned a packaging and shipping business and decided to franchise the concept in the late 80’s. The then 16-year-old Beagelman was bit by the franchising bug early and his aspirations of playing centerfield for the Yankees or Mets were replaced with an interest in learning all the ins-and-outs of the franchise sales process. His heroes shifted from the baseball diamond to those from the business arena.
“There was a TV show on at the time called Family Ties. I was Alex P. Keaton,” said Beagelman. “For my junior and senior year, I went to school in khakis and a polo shirt, then went to the office and sat next to the franchise development guy. I had asked if I could learn about the franchise sales process and so they let me serve as the intern for the VP of Sales. That’s how I started to learn all about franchising.”
This led to the maps in his Pace University dorm room where he brokered a deal with his freshman roommate to leave the room two nights a week so that Beagelman could call his leads.
“He thought I was planning to bring girls over. Back then, people didn’t take outside business calls during the day – so I needed to call them at night when they weren’t at their day job. I would call potential franchisees from my college dorm room two nights a week in a shirt and shorts. I would set up meetings for the pitches (now called Discovery Days) in between classes – and would go to class in slacks and a button-down shirt a lot of times in college.”
In college, Beagelman was selling two to three franchise deals per month, spending his weekends at franchise shows in the booth and meeting with prospects. At the height of the company’s growth they had more than 130 locations across 17 states.
But Beagelman had aspirations beyond the family business, so in 1991 followed an entrepreneurial vision to found Black Tie Express while still in college.
Seeing huge opportunity in what delivery was doing for the booming pizza industry, Beagelman created Black Tie Express to provide delivery service to restaurants to improve sales on slower nights and provide another revenue stream when demand surpassed occupancy limitations on weekends. Black Tie Express began franchising in 1993 and by 1994, had already grown to 35 franchises before Beagelman sold the company to Takeout Taxi and joined their team as Vice President of Development, leading the brand to 150 units. Not even 25 years old yet, Beagelman was already closing franchise deals internationally.
After Takeout Taxi, Beagelman served stints in franchise development with a variety of emerging concepts before landing at Rita’s Italian Ice where he served as a board member and the first VP of Development. While at Rita’s, Beagelman helped grow the brand from under 100 units to more than 350 with another 100 in development before the company sold to private equity. He next went to Saladworks and eventually to Hollywood Tans where he became CEO. After leaving Hollywood Tans in 2009, he began doing some individual franchise consulting and that blossomed into SMB Franchise Advisors, which has become a major consulting firm in the franchise industry.
In 2017, business continues to improve at the firm. The consulting company has a core group of team members and are hiring in order to keep up with demand.
“The business is taking on a life of its own. It continues to evolve. I’m an equity partner in a few franchise brands and I can certainly see that continue to grow,” said Beagelman. “We love to work on exciting brands and concepts, but more importantly we love to work with great people. One of my strongest passions is helping entrepreneurs expand their business beyond their initial locations and realize their business dream of becoming a national brand through franchising. Strong relationships are the foundation for our success and that will continue as the firm grows.”
During the company’s eight years, Beagelman has an impressive roster of former and current clients who have been able to expand substantially behind his and his team’s support.
For example, Beagelman and his team recently helped launch SoBol into franchising and the company has sold more than 30 locations.
“There is no doubt that our growth can be attributed to the leadership and guidance of Steve Beagelman. With 30+ stores in different stages of development, we are a young franchise who has had the privilege to enter the franchising arena with the greatest of confidence, knowledge and stability, and that is in great part to the amazing team at SMB franchising,” said Jason Mazzarone, founder and CEO of SoBol, Inc.
SMB also worked with Lightbridge Academy, an early education and child care franchise based in New Jersey which started franchising in 2011. The company currently has 90 child care centers either open, under construction or in development throughout Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida.
“We used SMB in the very beginning. They helped us to set up our operations manual, to set up our pro forma financial model (how you evaluate locations based on your unit economics). They really helped us to work on that. Once we got our operations manual and pro forma model in place we started selling franchises. But Steve and his team really got us launched. It would have been really hard to do this - but SMB saved us probably years of heartache in the six months they worked with us,” said Guy Falzarano, founder and CEO of Lightbridge Academy.
GYMGUYZ is another rapid success story for a client of Beagelman’s. Founded by entrepreneur Josh York at his mother’s kitchen table less than 10 years ago, today the brand has more than 100 locations across the country and is one of the fastest growing fitness concepts in the United States.
"SMB is a great resource for entrepreneurs pursuing the option of franchising. The team is very hands on and takes a family approach to business. It is clear that they really care about their clients and they bring a sense of comfort to a time that can be stressful, as a brand is launching its franchising opportunity. SMB has established a strong infrastructure that can handle rapid scalability, which was very attractive to me as I pursued franchising as the model to scale GYMGUYZ,” said Josh York, founder and CEO of GYMGUYZ.
However, the breadth of SMB Franchise Advisors’s services goes beyond just the launching of new franchises. Ongoing support can come in many forms. For example, SMB was able to help Closet and Storage Concepts arrange for the purchase of one of their main competitors in their industry. Similarly, after helping launch K9 Resorts Daycare & Luxury Hotel, Steve and his team helped in the process of incorporating private equity funds for the company to help them expand nationally.
The secret to success at SMB Franchise Advisors? Beagelman attributes all of it to the strong focus he and his team have on creating relationships with their clients.
“For me, it’s all about the people. I have an amazing team that supports our amazing clients. If we’re not a right fit, I’d rather not do business with them. Culture and values are very important to me. My clients are very valuable and I need to make sure that people on the SMB team are reflecting what I want SMB to represent. We aren’t in it for the short term – we value long term relationships. Just like my lifelong love of baseball, it’s not an individual sport, success is judged by the performance of the team.”
As SMB Franchise Advisors gets closer to a decade in business, the man who first started selling franchises before he was legally allowed to vote, sees a long and bright future ahead.
“I want to continue to grow the business. I see no reason why I won’t be doing this for another 10 to 15 years or more. When my kids go off to college, you’d think I’d take it easy – but I have to be honest with myself, I’ll probably be working harder than I do now.”