Franchise Business Takes Commitment

Friday, September 25, 2009

Mike Haimovitz has made his share of submarine sandwiches - and then some. At the tender age of 27, he has been a Dagwoods man for almost 10 years. The difference now is that he owns his own franchise; which does not mean he isn't still slicing meat and slapping together clients' favourite combo subs.

This is literally a hands-on job for Haimovitz; after starting out with Dagwoods Sandwiches and Salads as a summer job, he decided four years ago - when the Dagwoods shop on Sources Rd. in Dollard des Ormeaux became available to franchise out - to take the plunge from worker to owner.

In fact, the D.D.O. store was the first Quebec Dagwoods franchise offered by entrepreneur and now CEO of the burgeoning sub empire, Spiro Krallis. And according to Krallis, he didn't make a mistake by selling to Haimovitz, who has increased sales by almost 50 per cent since taking over from the previous manager.

"The operator of the franchise makes the difference, and Mike is a guy who makes things happen," said Krallis, who opened his first Dagwoods in Pointe Claire 20 years ago and still operates 13 of the 27 Dagwoods locations in the Montreal area. (Krallis decided in 2006 to start franchising Dagwoods and has former employees, like Haimovitz, as franchisees.) Haimovitz covers a lot of ground as a franchise owner - from hiring employees and training them, to his administrative and behind-the-counter duties.

"I guess the downside is not seeing results at first," he said. "The job can be mentally and physically draining. But it beats being in a cubicle for eight hours a day." Jacques Desforges, editor and publisher of Québec Franchise and Canadian Opportunities magazines, said some franchise owners expect immediate results when they go into business.

"Even if you have a recognizable brand, you still have to promote it," he cautioned. "You don't sign the contract, then go and take your own approach. If that's what you want to do with a franchise, you may as well open your own business.

"You have to be passionate about the business. The money will come eventually if you are patient and have good brand loyalty." Desforges said U.S. statistics show that 30 per cent of independent businesses disappear after three years, but only about five per cent of franchises do so. "The reason is that the franchisee has the support from head office for marketing, advertising and labour. The power is belonging to the franchise network. It's like the Three Musketeers' motto: One for all, and all for one." Darlene Fraraccio and Michel Ladouceur, co-owners of NDG Énergie-Cardio, got their support from the man himself: Énergie-Cardio president Alain Beaudry.

They went straight to the top before they making their decision to invest in a franchise.

"He was very transparent," Fraraccio said of Beaudry. "Énergie-Cardio was in line with our philosophy of physical fitness." Fraraccio was diagnosed with Grave's disease, a serious thyroid condition, in 2000. Deciding to take a proactive approach to her recovery, she combined physical activity and radiation therapy; 18 months later, she was in remission. That, combined with her husband's approaching retirement from Hydro-Québec and his interest in yoga and martial arts, provided the necessary impetus to become Énergie-Cardio franchisees. With Ladouceur handling the personal training side of the business and Fraraccio attending to the administrative end, they make a perfect team.

Like most franchise owners, they're finding it a labour-intensive business and, at the same time, a labour of love. Fortunately, it hasn't put a strain on the relationship.

"We're both in the same boat," Ladouceur noted. And this franchise boat is nowhere near sinking. With 16 full-time and part-time staff, their membership numbers are healthy since taking ownership seven years ago.

"For the first couple of years, I figure we put in anywhere from 90 to 110 hours a week. Now we can get away and let our staff take care of things," said the couple, who enjoyed a two-week vacation in Costa Rica this month.

NGD Énergie-Cardio welcomes all ages, including a blossoming 50-plus membership. Ladouceur recalls working with a 74-year-old woman who'd had a stroke and two knee replacements to deal with.

"I worked with her and one day on the treadmill I got her running for the first time since her operations," he said. "She was so happy, she cried.

"I've learned that physical autonomy is more important than money. That's why we're in this business for the long haul."

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17757 US Hwy 19 North
Clearwater, FL

Phone: (727) 507-7300
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