Milton and Gina Chancellor opened their FASTSIGNS of Tuscaloosa, AL in October 2014. Milton shared his thoughts on franchising with Franchise Business Review
What led you to enter franchising? I was actually forced to open my own business. I was a Purchasing Manager in a corporate environment, but due to corporate consolidation I would have had to relocate. My family and I really liked where we lived and did not want to leave, so I looked at the available jobs and other business opportunities including franchising. The franchise model, which offers training and ongoing support so that the franchisee will have a very good understanding of the business, allowed me to choose the business I wanted without any experience in that particular industry.
Why did you select FASTSIGNS? FASTSIGNS differentiated themselves from other franchises because they had positive reviews from their owners in all categories from profit potential and owner satisfaction to upper management. Another reason was the image of the FASTSIGNS brand, they “Do the Right Thing” and this was important to me. It also has a track record of being very successful for a long time.
What have you found particularly beneficial about being a franchisee? There is no way that I alone would have been successful without all of the support that FASTSIGNS offers. Training, equipment selection, and marketing are just a few areas of support they provide. They assigned us a startup consultant that communicated with us from the start until we became self-supportive. I also have face-to-face visits with a Field Consultant and a Marketing consultant twice a year. All of the classes and speakers at the annual convention and Sales Summit support the owners, plus I get to meet other FASTSIGNS owners from across the country.
What advice would you share with people considering purchasing a franchise? #1. Do a lot of research. I did, maybe to the point of over analyzing, but this was the future of my family and I wanted no surprises. The most important consideration for me was my family. #2 Make sure stakeholders are “in” so they will be supportive. I ensured that my spouse understood what we were getting in to. The fact that business ownership is hard and there would be problems. I explained to her that there would be long hours, employees quitting, machines breaking down, and that money may be tight. I had a meeting with my accountant and wife together. I would have never made the choice without her agreeing to opening a FASTSIGNS. #3. Meet with your accountant and prepare a business plan for your first three years of business. #4 Talk with other successful business owners and ask their advice. They are a wealth of knowledge. They know opening a new business is difficult since they have been there.
What advice would you share with a franchisee in his first year of business? You need to be very committed and dedicated to the business if you want to be successful. It is hard work. Be aggressive with sales and marketing. If you are not comfortable with a function of the business, then hire a person that will fill that gap. For example, hire a sales person if sales is not your thing and manage him or her. I also would say the culture of your company is the most important factor for your business. If your employees are not happy working for you, it will be a problem. Create a place they enjoy working in.
What is your work/life balance today? It’s improving. I am able to take a Friday and Monday off for a long weekend or take a week off during the slower times. I am somewhat flexible. For my first year and a half I worked a lot of 12 hour plus days and took very few days off. On weekends I would work most of the day on Saturdays and half a day on Sundays.
What kind of support do you get from fellow franchisees? All of the owners are very helpful. They are proud of the brand and a great community to be involved in.
What is the most challenging aspect of your business? Finding good employees is difficult, but they are out there. A successful business requires good employees.
What do you like most about owning your franchise? The satisfaction that hard work, focus, commitment, and dedication pay off. I also like the fact that my employees are enjoying success and being rewarded. It makes us feel good about what we are doing.
To see how FASTSIGNS’ franchisees rate it in a variety of crucial areas such as leadership, culture, training and support, financial outlook, and franchisee community, click here.
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