Top Players in Franchise Development: Scott Thompson
Top Players in Franchise Development: Scott Thompson

Scott Thompson, the Vice President of Franchise Development for Premium Franchise Brands, explains how rejection helped pave his path to success.

Scott Thompson’s road to franchising almost ended in a hospital. No, not because of a horrific accident or a medical emergency, but because of a simple trait that’s driven him toward franchise success ever since: a desire to help people.

Now serving as Vice President of Franchise Development for Premium Franchise Brands, parent company of commercial cleaning powerhouse JAN-PRO and its sister residential cleaning brand Maid Right, Thompson has rapidly become one of the most respected voices in the industry, and his growing sales record speaks for itself.

So, what helped pave his path to success?

“Rejection,” Thompson told 1851 Franchise with a laugh. “The course of my career changed because I was told ‘no.’ I got a degree in exercise physiology and sports medicine and initially I wanted to go into the cardiac rehabilitation field. I worked for a cardiologist, and I learned a lot being in the hospital. But, when I graduated and asked for a job, I wasn’t hired. That rejection made me think about what I truly wanted to do.”

So, Thompson set to work sending his resume out, and stumbled across a fitness franchise called Fitness Together, based near his hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts in a city called Newton.

“I was really intrigued by what they offered, because I knew this personal training studio would allow me the chance to still work individually with clients and help them, and that’s what attracted me to the exercise science/sports medicine field in the first place,” he said. “It wasn’t a large gym, but I thought it had a lot of potential. So, I signed on with big dreams. I was a hard charger, and I thought I could conquer the world at that age.”

Thompson set out quickly to prove that theory correct, becoming a part of Fitness Together’s “producer to leader” program. He learned the nuances of the brand’s operational systems, helped clients achieve their individual goals, and help lead the team of trainers. After scrimping and saving, he told the Master Franchisee and Owner that he was ready for more.

“I asked them if they would work with me if I could get the money to pay the franchise fee, and, they agreed. I had $10,000 saved up. I borrowed $12,000 from an uncle, I borrowed $12,000 from a bank, and I bought my first franchise in Dedham, Mass.,” Thompson said.

The business saw quick success, and Thompson was able to pay his loans back and begin earning.

“I had some clients who partnered as investors, with the goal of opening 24 locations on the East Coast,” Thompson said. “I was really good at the business model, and suddenly, I was one of the top franchisees in the system, with three locations open. So, the founder Rick Sikorski said to me one day: hey, Scott: why don’t you buy the master rights to New York instead of opening up 25 individual locations?”

That decision became fortuitous for Thompson’s eventual future success with JAN-PRO and Maid Right, which uses a similar master owner/unit owner model. His first foray into it began in Yonkers, New York in 2005.

“I sold all three of my locations in the Boston area and moved to New York to be the master franchisee for the state of New York,” Thompson said. “And, from 2005-2008, I was humming. We were opening 12-15 locations each year, all over the state, from Long Island to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester and beyond. We grew fast. But, then 2008 came and trouble started.”

Royalties weren’t being paid by some of Thompson’s unit franchisees. Cash flow got tighter as the recession hit, and Americans cut back on discretionary spending. And Thompson faced a choice: come up with new systems or risk drowning.

“So, I shifted to focus less on growth and more on royalty assistance programs to allow for franchisees to spend more money on marketing,” he said. “I renegotiated retail leases. I helped with additional sales training and financial management training. We tightened up. New systems and programs from the franchisor had not been developed in a while and things were stagnating. So, I lobbied the franchise system to do the same. And, eventually, that leadership helped me rise to become president of the brand’s Master Franchise Association.”

Thompson ended up helping to renegotiate master contracts for all of the other master owners, and eventually he sold back his master franchise license to the new private equity group. He then was hired on as the regional director, eventually managing about 120 locations. As he ramped up his involvement in the business model, he also ramped up his involvement in the International Franchise Association, and began focusing more on improving unit level economics system wide.

Then came the phone call.

“I was in the airport, about to go on vacation when my phone rang and the new HR person that was recently hired told me that my position was being eliminated. It was a tough call to take, because it left me with about $100,000 in debt,” Thompson said.

So, Thompson set out finding the next “big thing” in franchising that he could help build from the ground up. He landed on Desjoyaux Pools, based in St. Étienne France. The brand had pools built in the U.S., but not many.

He saw opportunity calling.

“This was their third attempt to enter the U.S. market, and I thought the time had come. I put together their 5-year strategic plan, FDDs, operational manuals, pricing plan, accounting software, and beyond. And, sure enough, growth came quick. In three years, we went from zero to more than $3 million in sales. But, I came to the realization that despite that success, it just wasn’t the right business for franchising,” Thompson said.

Later that year, Thompson got another key phone call that changed the direction of his career.

“I was working for Franconnect at the time, and while with Desjoyaux Pools I had worked with outside franchise attorney named Kathryn Rookes,” he said. “She called me and said: there’s something exciting happening in Atlanta, and trust me—you want to be a part of it. We need you. Come to Premium Franchise Brands.”

In July 2013, Thompson made the change, and hasn’t looked back.

“I’ve seen a lot change even in just the last three years, and I’m always evolving in how I speak to candidates about the franchise opportunity we offer. Candidates are highly informed now. The funnel has changed. People come in with a lot of research and background now, and digital is key. You have to have a significant amount of content online, and we think presenting strong success stories is key to that process,” Thompson said.

That’s how Thompson has helped foster such rapid growth for the brands he represents.

“We spend a great deal of time on the first call getting to know them,” he said. “What are their goals? What is their personal compelling reason for wanting to purchase a business? Is this a potential fit? We look at values of the individual. Ten years ago, if they said they had a passion for fitness and had the money, I sold to them. We’re much more measured now, and searching for a long term positive relationship between franchisor and franchisee.”

So, what’s next for the energetic young sales force who is helping to shape the future of the industry he never thought he’d be a part of in the first place?

“I want to help people grow,” Thompson said. “If given the right opportunity, I would like the opportunity to become the CEO of an emerging brand, and help them avoid making mistakes early on the road to success. What I went through in 2008 prepared me. It’s a risk to buy a business. There is a potential for failure. But, I also saw how hard work can set you up for success, and that’s changed how I approach the sales process. I’ve been lucky, knowing the right people, but I also know that hard work can help you chart your own course. I get up every day with that mindset, prepared for my next success.”