Dustin Myers, owner of two Batteries Plus outlets, echoes the sentiments of a lot of other franchisees when he says that no amount of training will prepare you 100 percent for that day when the franchisor says “okay, take it from here” and you open the doors to your own business.
Every market is different, Myers says, and it takes time to get to know your own market and establish relationships with customers, and hopefully instill loyalty that will keep them coming back to you for products and services.
Myers, 33, describes his three-week training process as a new Batteries Plus franchisee as “intensive,” covering everything from operations and inventory management to product knowledge and recycling procedures. He even received battery pack manufacturing training that taught him how to rebuild a rechargeable battery that has expired.
“They do about as much as they can in a three-week period to prepare you,” he said of the franchise. “They give you a general overview of all aspects of the business.”
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Two Revenue Streams
Myers also had the educational background to help him in business. He graduated from Eckerd College in Florida with a triple major in management, finance, and human resources management. He was sold on the franchise model as a way of going into business for himself, and chose Batteries Plus because of its size, relatively low investment costs, and because it gave him an opportunity to run a retail operation while also providing business-to-business services selling batteries and lightbulbs as a vendor to other companies.
“It required a small space to run a retail store,” he said. “I figured I’d be able to handle it by myself and handle the learning curve really quickly.”
“When you add all the factors up, Batteries Plus was an easy choice to make mainly because you’re selling a necessity, not a luxury,” he said. “Nursing homes, hospitals, offices still need to buy lightbulbs no matter what the economy does. So, I felt it was well protected from economic downturns.”
At 24, Myers opened his first 900-square-foot Batteries Plus in 2003, in Lancaster, Penn., the area where he grew up. In 2011, he opened a second 1,200-square-foot store in Timonium, Md. The two stores are about 60 miles apart. One location is in a smaller market and the other is more metropolitan (outside of Baltimore).
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While he had researched other franchises in different sectors — Subway, Cold Stone Creamery, Interstate Batteries — he was drawn especially to Batteries Plus because of its opportunity to draw from two revenue streams: the daily customers who visited his store and the local businesses for whom he could become a supplier.
He discovered that each store offered a fair share of both types of customers. About 65 percent of his revenue from the Lancaster store comes from commercial clients and 35 percent comes from the retail side; in Maryland, the exact opposite is true.
“You never know until you’re in your store what direction it’s going to take,” he said.
Marketing Approaches Differ
The difference between his two stores requires different types of marketing approaches, he said. To garner commercial clients in Lancaster, Myers said he and his staff try to build relationships with customers like maintenance men who come into his store. He will provide them with information about their services in hopes of landing a new commercial account. Sometimes, it also requires doing cold calls with area businesses.
Myers also pays $1,000 to be a member and sponsor of the Manufacturers Association of Lancaster County, which provides him an opportunity to address various members of the association every quarter to essentially give them a sales pitch about his store and its services.
Another good practice, he says, is building relationships with similar retailers that aren’t in direct competition, such as RadioShack and various cell phone providers that don’t sell a huge selection of batteries. He distributes referral pads to those businesses and asks the sales assistants if they would refer customers to his store when they are unable to serve their customers’ needs themselves.
“It’s a way to drive customers to your stores without spending a lot of money,” he said.