Recently, Franchise Business Review spoke with Mark Sylvester, the franchise owner for CarePatrol in Northern Arizona and one of Franchise Business Review's 2018 Rockstar Franchisees! Mark offered some insight into the differences between franchise ownership and the corporate world, and explained how he was able to transition to an industry that was completely new for him.
Read the interview below, or listen to the full conversation here:
Mark, thank you for spending some time with us today. How are you doing?
Mark: Excellent, I appreciate the opportunity.
Mark, can you give us a little bit of your professional history and explain what lead you to want to own your own business in the first place?
Mark: Certainly. I worked in the construction products industry for 29 years in various sales, marketing, and business development roles. I was eager to exit the corporate world and start my own business.
Ironically, in my research, I learned about CarePatrol and the Franchise Business Review, Franchisee Satisfaction Award, and I believe in the franchise concept, because of their proven systems. If you are good about following the franchisors' processes, you can be successful.
When you were going through that process and eventually landed on CarePatrol, were there other companies you were looking at? Were you looking at other senior care franchises, other franchise businesses in general, or was it just CarePatrol that drew you specifically to them?
Mark: I was looking at other franchise opportunities. My natural tendency was to go towards the building products industry. I kept coming back to the Senior Living and Care Industry, just because of the demographics in our country.
I did take a look at some other senior living care type franchises, but I finally arrived with CarePatrol.
You've been in business now a little bit over three years. How has that experience been so far for you? Has the business and the lifestyle that goes along with it stacked up to what your original expectations were going in?
Mark: The results and the experience entering into my fourth year has exceeded my expectations. I enjoy the lack of corporate politics. I'm a sole owner and operator. I do not have any employees yet. I'll be hiring my first employee on April 2nd. It's been very positive.
The greatest change has been just...what I'm doing every day has a potential to make a positive impact on a senior, a veteran, or a family. Much more meaningful to me than what I was doing in the corporate world.
That's great. Congratulations on hiring your first employee coming very soon and on your success so far. How has your lifestyle been in those first three years running the business? Has it been a full time job for you, or has it been a grow into it type of approach?
Mark: It has definitely been a full time business owner, a 100 percent focus. I have no other business interests. With my wife we agreed that she is going to be a silent partner. It's probably better for us. Lifestyle has been improved. I'm traveling very little anymore. I was pretty burned out on travel. I can create my own schedule, take time off as needed.
The downside quite frankly is being a sole owner and operator is that when you go on vacation or you're out doing things on Saturday, the phone rings, and you’ve got to take care of business. So that's the double edge sword of not hiring employees or having additional team members.
That makes a lot of sense. The sentiment of being burnt out on travel and wanting to get away from that is something that is shared by a lot of franchise owners. A kind of case in point is that all those airline magazines have a ton of franchise and business opportunity ads all over them. Your experience was not a unique situation in that regard. Certainly an understandable benefit.
You just mentioned always having to be on call. What would you say has been the most rewarding, and the most challenging parts of being a franchise owner thus far?
Mark: The most rewarding experiences that I've had so far are feedback from families after we've gone through the process together in our business. The cards, the letters, the referrals, that they make to other families that are going through the same thing. That keeps me going.
The greatest challenge has been that I can help a family to create a perfect situation, a perfect outcome. Then things happen after the facts. I've had to learn that those things are out of my control. I can't change what happens in those situations, once a loved one is placed.
I've had to learn that I can only control the controllables, which is my attitude, my schedule, and my activities. Everything else is more or less out of my control. I have to just move on. I can’t allow it to consume me.
Again, that's a very important lesson to learn and certainly something that will help you succeed in your business. Knowing when you just need to let go of things.
We've seen in our business, surveying different franchise systems, that CarePatrol rates very well in the area of Training and Support. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind just giving us some general overview of what CarePatrol does to support its franchisees that gives it such a good score.
Mark: Our franchisors – the founders of CarePatrol – are very committed to our success. I see that every week, and every month, they'll come out and have business building opportunities that are totally voluntary.
They listen to feedback from their franchise partners as far as opportunities for improvement. Many times they act on that. You feel when you bring concerns forward, with the best interests of the entire system, they listen. If there's a reason why they can't accommodate a suggestion for improvement, they'll tell you.
I appreciate that coming from the corporate world, where many times your input just fell on deaf ears. I value that very much. They definitely re invest a lot back into their franchise partners.
Along the same lines, how did you feel about the initial training that you received? Since this is an industry which was new for you coming in, did you feel equipped to get your business off the ground from the beginning, based on their training?
Mark: Absolutely. The training was very comprehensive. As you touched on, this was a brand new industry for me, which was a good thing. I was eager to learn about it. It was very thorough. I didn't feel overwhelmed either because they broke it up into two different segments.
We were able to absorb a particular part of the training, and go out into our territories, and implement it, then come back for a phase two. I could see that the training over the years had improved based on best practices and feedback from other franchise partners.
It sounds like they did help you get started on the right foot, and continue to support you through the first few years of your business as well. Looking into the future, then, what are your goals for the next few years for your business, and for your lifestyle? I’m sure part of that might start with having an employee on staff, and delegating some responsibilities, but I'll let you speak to that.
Mark: The simple answer is, from day one, I wanted to keep this whole venture simple and not complicated. My goal was not to grow this into a multi million dollar business, because I want to maintain a quality of life along with it.
I am going to be adding my first team member, as I mentioned. She is experienced and very professional. She'll hit the ground running. That's what I want. I want to invest in her and make sure that she also has the same quality of life that I have.
I don't know what the future holds as far as additional employees, but I want to take one year at a time. Long term, I could see myself continuing to run this business for about the next 12 years.
That's wonderful. I'm glad that you mentioned that you're not looking to make it a multi-million dollar business. It's something that we consider a lot. As you know, we do franchisee satisfaction research and we do ask franchisees about their income, but we find that income is not necessarily directly related to their satisfaction with the business.
There are many other factors that contribute to what they're looking for, and what they want out of their business. It sounds to me like you're looking just for, as you said, the quality of life, and the ability to grow at a pace you're comfortable with and have the lifestyle you want. Is that a fair assessment?
Mark: That's absolutely correct. It's not easy, but just trying to find that balance between allowing your business to grow and feeding it, but also, keeping margin in your life as a business owner.
Exactly. Finally, hat are the main things that you think a prospective franchise owner should be thinking about, looking for, or making sure they know, before they take a leap into any franchise, whatever business it may be?
Mark: Number one, I think the expectation should be, you can no longer blame things on corporate. A franchise owner should expect to take 100 percent responsibility for the results. It's a different relationship with the franchisor.
You are the business owner. The franchisor is there for support, and potentially, to help you to grow your business. The other recommendation would be to definitely plan very conservatively in the first year.
There are a lot of things that can happen. I would recommend planning, in the end, for a net operating loss in the first year. The third thing would be, again, as a small business owner, it's a lot different.
There are things that are going to happen that are out of your control, and they do affect your results on a monthly basis. You just have to learn to develop thick skin and to move on to the next opportunity.
That is all excellent advice. Thank you for that. We would most certainly agree about budgeting conservatively, even through the first few years of your business. Businesses in different markets take an uncertain amount of time to really get off the ground and build that customer base.
I would reiterate all of Mark's points there on considering those three options or those three factors before jumping into any franchise brand.
Mark, I just want to thank you for your time and thoughts today. I think that you shed some light on the CarePatrol system and just on the experience of being a franchise owner. I want to wish you the best of luck in your fourth year of your business.
Mark: Thank you very much. It's my pleasure.
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