How He Did It: A Franchisee's Path From Drug Co. Sales Exec To Business Owner

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Having just written a book on how to know if franchising is right for you after your corporate career, I am a collector of the stories of people making good on the franchise dream. How are they doing it? I interview interesting franchisees all the time and was going to wrap it all up in one mega-blogpost, but I think you'll gain more as a prospective franchisee if you can listen to these folks one at a time.

First up: Matt Slappey of Decatur, Ga., a franchisee of Murphy Business Brokers. Matt was a sales executive at Pfizer for 12 years--a successful one who made his numbers. But the anxiety of being powerless in corporate America took its toll on him. "We had layoffs every 18 months. I was once laid off and rehired on the same day!" He was tired of having "meetings about having meetings." Finally, he quit--no layoff, no severance, no stock options.

He took a few months to soul-search. He decided he wanted the "potential to make a ton of money without having a lot of employees to manage." He bought his business brokerage franchise about two years ago and says he has "never been happier." He has an interesting spin on what he does: "I help people who own small and midsize companies understand the value of their business and help them sell it without competitors knowing it was ever for sale. And I help former corporate people like me buy their own business." So how hard was his transition to self-employment? Pay special attention here, potential franchisees: "My transition was pretty easy, other than having to get a real estate license. I have an accounting degree, which is helpful. I have good sales and presentation skills. And a great work ethic. Also, Murphy had great weekly training for a year." What amazes me is how many people buy a business without these core skills: a working knowledge of accounting, the ability to sell, and to the desire to work like a madman for as long as it takes to be successful.

It can't be that easy, Matt! There were, and are, many challenges. So Matt offers these suggestions to prospective franchise entrepreneurs: 1. When you buy a business you may have no initial income at all, so you have to have reserves.

2. Do due diligence--and that doesn't mean calling the three franchisees that the franchisor recommends. "Call 40 people who own the same franchise.

3. If you're buying an existing business, use a business broker to represent you. (Well, you'd expect Matt to say that!) 4. Ask yourself: "Can I see myself doing this every day?" Meaning, if you have a short attention span, as many people who start a business do, you better have very deep pockets.

5. Make sure you have family commitment before buying a business. "My wife is 110% supportive. It took her a couple of months at first. She wasn't sure, so we waited. An opportunity might go off the market, but pass it up if you have to." So how's it going for Matt? "I'm just more proud than I have ever been. Proud that I don't rely on anybody else." That's a nice state to be in. It can be an easier transition than you might imagine, if you have all the right skills.

Mitchell York is a Professional Certified Coach, small business entrepreneur, and author of Franchise: Freedom or Fantasy? How to Know If a Franchise Is Right for You After Your Corporate Career. He can be reached at [email protected] and information about his book is available at www.franchisefreedomorfantasy.com. Mitch also blogs at www.e2ecoaching.com.

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