(Ambrosio’s note: With a comprehensive franchise plan, there’s no need for an investor to reinvent the wheel — that work has already been done. But new franchisees can still learn from others who have come before them.
With our Franchise Mentor series, we will introduce you to investors with diverse franchise portfolios as well as single-unit operators who share their personal stories about the keys to their success, what has worked for them, and even some things to avoid, as you contemplate becoming a franchise partner.)
Veterans and franchises seem to go together as naturally these days as burgers and fries. In November 2012, Franchise Business Review released a new report for the International Franchise Association that showed more than 64,000 veterans, military spouses, and wounded warriors have started careers in franchising since 2011, including 4,314 who have become veteran franchise business owners through Operation Enduring Opportunity, a campaign of the IFA’s VetFran Strategic Initiative.
One of those vets is Paul “Buddy” Rhoades, owner of ProTect Painters of Roanoke Valley in Virginia. When the 53-year-old, who worked on logistics in the Pentagon and served a tour of Afghanistan in the U.S. Army, returned from the Middle East last year, he found little opportunity for employment. He had been in telecommunications, but his old company didn’t want him back and he kept hitting a brick wall in his attempts to secure a job with other companies.
Unemployment Not an Option
After 32 years in the military, including 20 years in the National Guard, he decided to open his own business and was set on it being a franchise because of brand recognition; and because he felt a franchise system would give him the help he would need getting a business off the ground. The segments he looked at were all over the board, from lawn maintenance to assisted care of the elderly, as he explored companies such as HandyPro, Service Master Clean, NutriLawn, USA Mobil Drug Testing, Patrol Services International, The Seniors Choice, and PASS (Packaging and Shipping Specialists).
Rhoades said he was assisted by a broker from Franchisemate.com who helped guide him in determining which segment in general, and which company specifically, might be the best fit for him.
He settled on ProTect Painters for a number of reasons, not the least of which was a $2,500 discount on the franchise fee for veterans. Since Rhoades signed up, the company has increased the discount to $5,000.
ProTect Painters is a professional painting contractor franchise specializing in interior and exterior commercial and residential painting projects. Founder Wayne Scherger started the company in 1994 and in 2009, it was acquired by Service Brands International, which is the parent company of two other brands: Molly Maid and Mr. Handyman.
Being His Own Boss
“Some people say, ‘Why a painting company?’ ” Rhoades says, “but it just appealed to me.”
Those who know Rhoades well might understand the appeal of the business to him. He and his wife Robin own a home in the Roanoke area that was built in the 1800s; and he has always been a handyman around his own house. But he makes it clear that with his new business, he wanted to run the show, not do the physical work.
“I manage my company; that’s my job,” Rhoades said. “I don’t want to paint. I want people to like their house better, I just don’t want to do the work. I’ve been doing it all my life.”
Under the ProTect Painters model, Rhoades meets with a client, provides estimates for the work, and visits the site daily once a project has begun to be sure the work is progressing as agreed. He hires subcontractors to do the actual painting, or whatever work the job entails.
The franchise setup provides him with freedom, a chance to work mostly outdoors; it puts him in a position of being the boss and it was a “reasonable” investment, he said.
“It just seemed to me that all the pieces fit together.”
Franchisees Must Do Thorough Homework
However, he would caution other potential franchisees to do thorough research before choosing a company and signing an agreement. For example, he was told that the investment in a ProTect Painters franchise would amount to about $47,000, but that figure did not include other necessary expenses he would need to get the business up and running. For example, he needed to purchase a new vehicle that would be appropriate for the business and help in transporting certain items and supplies, he said.
While the company advertised an investment of less than $50,000 to start the business, Rhoades said his outlay was about double that. In addition to paying a franchise fee and related costs of becoming a partner, there are incidental costs such as state and local fees required to start a business, not to mention the need for local advertising to get your name in front of potential clients, he said.
(Ambrosio’s note: According to ProTect Painter’s website, the total estimated initial investment for a ProTect Painter’s franchise is $99,100, which includes $50,000 in working capital.)