Franchise Business Review recently spoke with Wild Birds Unlimited’s Art and Lisa Martin to gain insight on what it’s like to be a franchise owner. Excerpts from the following interview are featured in FBR’s 2021 Veterans Guide issue.
Name: Art & Lisa Martin
Location: Florence and Irmo, SC
Franchise Owner Since: 2018
What initially attracted you to Wild Birds Unlimited?
We were not actually looking for a franchise when we discovered Wild Birds Unlimited. We knew we wanted work that was rewarding, both personally and financially, that we could continue in our later years. Our marketing efforts for a small business we had started put us in contact with the Franchise Support Center team at WBU, and we were immediately impressed with the attitudes of joy, satisfaction, enthusiasm and happiness of the team and local franchise owners we met. Almost simultaneously, we both knew we wanted to be one of those happy people! We recognized that WBU would give us the opportunity to work and build relationships which are core beliefs we hold as to why God put us on this earth.
What was it about the franchise model and/or leadership that led you to purchase yours?
Having started a small business out of our home, we saw the value a franchise offered by having already done all the heavy lifting involved in building an enterprise — branding, policy, and procedures, establishing supply chains, marketing materials, professional graphics, high-quality products, training materials, support on-demand, etc. Basically, everything we needed to start and grow a successful business. After expressing interest, we went through a rigorous vetting process and many honest discussions to ensure that we were the right fit for them, and they for us. The WBU Franchise Support Center also helped us find the best location for our business and educated us regarding non-traditional financing that allowed us to open our business debt-free.
What is your military background?
Art joined the US Army in 1984, received Basic Training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and was trained to be an armor crewman. He was then sent to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs and served in the 4th Infantry Division where he received further training on the M60-A3 main battle tank. In 1986, Art joined the 1st Armor Division in Erlangen, Germany, where he was trained on the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank and served as a patrol leader on the West German/East German/Czech border. Art left the military in 1989 to further his education.
How has your military training helped you run your business?
It helps us understand and appreciate the power of training and teamwork. We are purposeful in giving our team members access to all the training they need and want. We know it will pay dividends in the future and sets them up for success, plus it helps them feel like they are part of our team.
What advice do you have for active military/vets considering a franchise?
Visit a variety of existing franchises and talk to as many owners as possible. Ask hard interview questions. Successful owners will want to share their stories. Find a franchise whose statements of mission, vision, and values you can agree with, promote, and support without reservation. In the beginning, fall in line and be prepared to follow orders! Learn the system and execute the proven plan. As time goes by, you start to make the store your own and inject your personality into the atmosphere. Also, pay attention to details at training!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
We hope to be working closely with an individual or couple who will eventually buy one or both of our territories. We hope to be able to offer our time, knowledge, and experience to new owners so they can enjoy the same rewarding experience we have in building not only a viable business, but wonderful relationships with customers and the community.
Anything you want to add?
Here’s just one example of why we love what we do: An older gentleman visited our store to purchase all the necessary items to set up a bird-feeding station for a friend, and I gathered the friend was a lady. We talked about and considered her ability to fill and maintain bird feeders to choose products that would be easy and enjoyable to use. While carrying his purchases out to his truck, I asked if he would be setting up the feeders that day. He confided in me that the lady lived several states away and was the wife of his life-long best friend who had recently passed away. She was struggling emotionally and financially and was facing foreclosure on her home. The plan was to drive from South Carolina to Ohio the next morning, set up her feeders then surprise her by paying off her mortgage, so she could stay in her home.
This is one of many stories that customers have shared with us, and we cannot express our gratitude for the blessing of sharing their joy.