(Ambrosio’s note: Proforma is one of the leading suppliers of print and promotional products across North America. What distinguishes Proforma from their competitors is a team of over 750 strategic marketing consultants (franchisees) who provide local service anywhere in North America, along with 15,000 product manufacturers who are experts in their field. This translates into significant buying power, making it possible for franchise owners to pass along huge savings to their corporate clients.
This franchise opportunity would be appropriate for someone with a background in sales. The actual production is done by various suppliers, while the franchise owner lands clients and helps them with all of their commercial printing and promotional products needs.
This is an exclusive interview with the man who started it all — the founder of Proforma, Greg Muzzillo.)
Franchise Chatter (FC): Can you tell us the story behind the start of Proforma?
Greg Muzzillo (GM): I graduated from college in 1977 and worked for one year with the auditing firm Haskin and Sells, the predecessor to Deloitte & Touche. I founded Proforma in 1978 with a college friend, $200 and a fax machine. Within one year, the business grew to more than $250,000 in sales, with more than 300 clients. In 1982, our sales reached $1 million, and we were recognized by Inc. Magazine’s 500 Fastest Growing Companies — three times in a row.
In the mid 1980’s, after our success was published in Inc. Magazine and other publications, we were approached by a number of individuals that were interested in becoming franchise owners. This interest caused us to think that franchising may be a great way for Proforma to grow and offer a great business model to opportunity seekers.
FC: For those unfamiliar, please tell us about the range of products and services that you offer? Can you give us some idea of the sales mix of a typical Proforma franchisee?
GM: Proforma franchise owners are business-to-business distributors of commercial printing, promotional products and related items. Commercial printing includes items like brochures, stationery, direct mail, tags, labels, catalogs, etc. Promotional products include branded items like pens, hats, shirts, desk accessories, calendars, corporate gifts, bags, etc. Related items include signs, point of purchase displays, packaging, etc. Our franchise owners are NOT print shop owners. They run professional sales organizations.
GM: Virtually every business buys, uses up, and re-orders more of what we sell. Our franchise owners target customers with a total potential annual spend of between $20,000 and $1 million.
FC: How has competition from online vendors and suppliers affected your business? How have you responded?
GM: We do not target small businesses. Small businesses buy online. Large businesses want somebody to call on them…somebody to answer questions… somebody to provide ideas. Additionally, we do use technology to help our franchise owners sell more to their customers with online e-company stores.
FC: What are some of your strengths over your competitors (both online and off-line)?
GM: Proforma is one of the top ranked distributors in North America. Our franchise owners have access to marketing tools and programs not available to their smaller competitors. Additionally, our franchise owners are able to offer their customers the broadest array of products at the most competitive price because of our size and the purchasing clout we command.
FC: Can you describe the ideal franchisee for Proforma?
GM: The ideal Proforma franchise candidate is someone who has a strong desire to own their own business and the skills to build a sales organization. The ideal candidate is a sales professional who resides in the United States or English speaking provinces of Canada. It doesn’t matter what age, gender or race you are, you can be successful with Proforma.
FC: What are you doing to help your franchisees succeed and become profitable?
GM: All new franchise owners start with new franchise owner training classes. They are then assigned a success coach that works with them during training to develop a business plan. After franchise training is complete, the success coaches continue to work with their franchise owners to assist them in all phases of learning and growing the business.
Phase one of franchise development is TEAM 400. This is for franchise owners with sales under $400,000 per year. During phase one, franchise owners may choose to work from their home or a small office. The second phase is for franchise owners seeking to grow from $400,000 to at least $1 million. During this phase and beyond, most franchise owners operate from a sales office setting. We also have a multi-million dollar club, a $5 million dollar club, a $10 million dollar club and a $25 million dollar club.
Successful owners also take advantage of all the support center tools that are available to them, including a full suite of business development, marketing and sales support.
FC: Can you tell us a bit about the initial investment and ongoing expenses to run a Proforma franchise?
GM: The initial franchise fee is $29,500, with an additional $4,500 start-up marketing and business development kit. Ongoing expenses include a $100 monthly technology/communications fee in addition to the monthly service fees that range from 6-9% of sales.
FC: What are your goals for Proforma in the next few years and how do you plan to grow your business?
GM: At Proforma, we have a near term goal of reaching $1 billion in total sales. But we are not as focused on numbers as we are on quality. Our philosophy is that we have built Proforma one great franchise owner at a time and our primary attention is on each individual and their success.