Franchise Business Review recently spoke with Wild Birds franchise owner Matt Kosty to gain insight on what it’s like to be a franchise owner and the challenges of running your own business. Excerpts from the following interview with Kosty are featured in FBR’s 2022 Top 200 Franchises issue.
Name: Matt Kosty
Location: Fayetteville & Camillus, NY
Franchise owner since: August 2017
Can you share a bit about your background? What were you doing prior to being a franchise owner and how did that help prepare you for what you’re doing now?
I am a Fortune 500 dropout! I was a VP of HR for the western division of an integrated health care organization. After that, I was the Director of Operations for a closely-held family business in Syracuse, NY.
Having a background in operations, finance and human resources allows me to look at the business holistically. It has allowed me to lead as a servant for my staff. I am at the bottom of the organizational chart. Our customers are at the top of our organization chart. I work for my staff so they can work for our customers.
What are the most critical skills that you feel are needed to be successful? Did you have those skills and how did the corporate group help you develop those skills?
The most critical skills needed to be successful are personnel management, listening, and leading by example. I was fortunate enough to have those skills when I purchased the franchise. The franchise has helped me to hone those skills relative to the overall mission of bringing people and nature together with excellence.
What were you looking for in franchising that you were not getting from your previous career?
Freedom, quality of life, and the ability to set my own course.
Can you tell us about the process you went through to select your franchise brand? How long would you say it took you to get to signing the agreement?
I went through a thorough process of finding the best fit for me. I subscribed to trade publications, franchising sites that would give me a sneak peek at the FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document), and spoke with franchisees who were in each system. Wild Birds Unlimited checked three important boxes for me. First, I am Amazon proof. You cannot buy any of my products outside of my store and my website. Second was shopper motivation. I wanted to experience an environment where people were happy to come into the store. Third was freedom. It took me a solid year to get to the signing agreement
Were there any pressing questions you needed answered before signing your agreement that future buyers should ask?
Not in terms of the franchise agreement itself, but realize you are dealing with people who operate these stores who tend to be less business savvy, thus dragging the process out.
Did you speak with other franchise owners during the process? How important is this in making your decision? What questions would you suggest future buyers ask?
Absolutely. I spoke to 12 owners. It was important for me to hear the experiences of people who have been in the franchise system for a long period of time and those who were just getting started.
Ask about staff tenure and development. Ask about the hardest part of owning a store and the best part of owning a store. Ask about current challenges and opportunities in the industry. Ask if they plan on expanding.
What convinced you that this was the right brand for you?
The people, alignment, and the opportunity. Bird feeding is a multi-billion-dollar industry and is the second most popular hobby in the United States, second only to gardening. The one factor that put it over the top for me was joy. This is a joyful hobby and one of our KPI’s is smiles.
Now that you have been up and running for a bit, are there things you know now that you wish you had insight into before that might have made it easier for you?
The technology piece. I feel like that is a major area of improvement for the franchise. I would have also liked to know more about the e-commerce platform.
If you think about your first year in business, what was the biggest obstacle you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
Time and resources. You are pulled in a thousand different directions each day. There are competing, but equally important, aspects of the business. You have to be a master juggler. Setting a routine and simplifying processes helped overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed.
What advice do you have for prospective franchise buyers?
Do your research. Talk to current franchisees. Visit the locations. Make sure the people running the franchise are good people who work to make you successful.
For more information on Wild Birds Unlimited franchise opportunities,
Call: (888) 730-7180