August, 2011

Aug 11

Leaving the Corporate Grind to Start a Family Business

After working decades in Corporate America, Steve Odom was fed up and ready to move on.

A frugal man, Odom had saved well and was able to leave a career in manufacturing at the relatively young age of 57. He figured he’d be OK, but he wasn’t so sure about his son, Jason, whose retail management job was robbing him of valuable time with his three young sons.

“I just wasn’t enamored with the corporate life anymore,” Steve Odom says. “I wanted to find something else to do, but I had enough put away so that I didn’t have to. But I really wanted to help my son, so I investigated starting a family business.”

Odom did his homework and determined franchise ownership offered one of the best opportunities for long-term success with a family-owned business. He sought out Leslie Kuban, franchise business consultant with FranNet of Georgia.

“I started out pretty open-minded; I wasn’t skeptical about franchising,” Odom says. “Most people in this country who ultimately do well and succeed get their start in small business. I just needed to go through the process of finding a franchise that was a good fit.”

Within a few months, the Steve and Jason Odom family business was born – a fabric, leather and plastics restoration franchise in Milledgeville, Ga. The father and son team has been operating for 18 months and the business is growing fast.

“We are really gathering momentum,” Odom says. “We just had a record month in July. We just got a very good order from a hospital and we’re busy calling on all kinds of businesses – from hot rod associations to medical offices — to grow the franchise.”

Within five years, Jason will be running the show and Steve will take a lesser role but still be involved in key management functions.

According to research by the Family Business Review, the Odoms have an excellent chance of success, especially if they retain their managerial roles as the franchise grows. Family members at the top “can command greater loyalty within the firm, which enhances employee productivity and morale,” the study says.

The Family Business Review’s information also shows that family businesses are more profitable and create more jobs than non-family firms.

“Owning a franchise isn’t a decision I would have made on my own just for me, but I saw it as the perfect chance to help my son,” Odom says. “It was a wise decision. I have something to do, and most importantly, my son will be able to take over the business in the future. He can spend much more time with his children now. When family is your No. 1 priority, you’ll almost always find a way to succeed.”

Take a look at the following clips featuring Steve and Jason Odom and Leslie Kuban:

Aug 11

3 Ways to Stay Passionate about Your Franchise

purple passion FSOD

This week I’m hanging out at  Check out my comments, along with those of other franchise owners, on Secrets to Staying Passionate About Your Franchise.

Here are three additional pointers:

1.  Choose a business you enjoy. By enjoy, I mean the day-to-day activities that you, the owner, will be performing to make your business successful.   Different franchises require different skill sets and, therefore, different types of people.  Some require the owner to manage a lot of employees.  Others require the owner engage in a lot of networking and outside sales.  Chances are greater that you’ll maintain your enthusiasm for your business if you get to spend most of your time on business activity that is enjoyable for you.  Conversely, you’ll loose steam fast if you don’t like what you must do to make it work (even if you love the service/product of your business.)

2.  Team up with an accountability partner. Find a buddy who, like you, has goals you want to accomplish.  Your accountability partner could be another franchisee, a friend, an owner of a completely different type of business.  I recommend you choose someone you’re not super close to personally.  The point is to hold each other accountable for doing what you each say you will do for the benefit of your own businesses.  If your AP is your pal, the likelihood is greater that s/he will let you get away with not keeping your commitment to yourself and vice-versa.  This defeats the purpose.   It feels really good to set goals and accomplish them – a great motivator to stay engaged and passionate about the business.  And it’s fun to “win” this way alongside someone else.

3.  Join your FAC, become a new franchisee trainer or support coach. This is a great way to have some  influence shaping policy and decision making as the franchise company evolves.   We tend to feel more committed to and engaged in something we helped create and mold.   I love being a new franchisee coach.  It’s fun to help someone through their first six months and to be a part of their initial successes.   Their excitement is contagious and gives me renewed excitement for my own business.   The “thank yous” are also personally rewarding.   And the bonus benefit to me is that I am retraining myself at the same time I’m training someone else; I remember the things that I should be doing that I somehow stopped doing.

Aug 11

Blue Collar CEOs: a growing success trend


Not that kind of blue collar....

How would you like to trade in your suit, tie and corner office for shorts, a golf shirt and a pick up truck?   Many former white collar managers and executives are doing exactly this.  They are becoming Blue Collar CEOs…and loving it!   Here are a few recent examples:

  • Senior VP in the newspaper industry now owns a residential and commercial painting franchise.
  • Operations VP from Earthlink now owns a commercial window cleaning company.
  • COO in transportation now owns a commercial kitchen maintenance business.
  • Human Resources Director now owns a surface restoration franchise.
  • Chief Revenue Officer of a theater company now owns a residential cleaning company.

All of these folks are my clients and to some extent they (and their spouses) all had to undergo an identity shift.  And once they did, they discovered these excellent business and personal benefits to becoming a Blue Collar CEO.

Necessity Based

All of the folks on my list of new born Blue Collar CEOs will tell you that they found their businesses to be need-based versus want-based in their due diligence.  All found the majority of other franchise owners continued to grow during the Great Recession and said, “Yes, I would start this business again.”

Low Financial Risk

I love the service category for numerous reasons:  quicker ramp-up, good margins, scales quickly, lower incremental cost of expansion, and lower upfront investment.   The average all-in investment for a franchise business is about $150,000.  Many blue collar service opportunities require less, sometimes quite a bit less than the average.

Simple to Scale and Dominate a Market

The competition for businesses like painting, window cleaning, commercial kitchen maintenance, etc. is overwhelmingly coming from unorganized, unprofessional, one-man-in-a-truck technicians.   It’s not hard for the white collar manager or executive who is clean cut and on time to out compete the dude with the long pony tail and AC/DC t-shirt who does not answer his phone.   Blue Collar CEOs are not the technicians in their businesses.  They are hiring and managing the technical labor (who prefer steady work and steady pay versus all the other stuff involved in running a business), project managers, office admin, and sales people.   Also, these are simple businesses.  The key to scalability is simplicity.  The more complex the business, the more difficult it is to find labor and therefore grow.

High Return on Investment

A Blue Collar CEO can control and penetrate a substantial geographic area for a fraction of the cost of one retail based business that might have a draw of 2-3 miles.   There are many people who have replaced and exceeded their executive level income after a few years of owning a blue collar service business.   Had they chosen retail, it would likely taken them twice as long and cost three times as much to achieve the same result.

Better Quality of Life

This is perhaps the best benefit of all.  No more travel.  No more nightmare commutes.  No more schmoozing and politicking.  More normalized hours and schedule control.  Less stress.   One very successful Blue Collar CEO shared that what he loves best about owning his painting franchise is “I am the only dad on my daughter’s traveling softball team who got to see every game last year.   I never could have done so as a corporate executive.”

These are not sexy businesses with high social prestige attached to them.   And unfortunately, the “image” of a business is important to some people.  Those who allow their ego and image to drive their business investigation process cut themselves off from opportunities that may very well give them the growth, security and quality of life they desire at a lower financial risk.

In this video, philosophy scholar and mechanic Matthew Crawford talks about the dichotomy of knowledge work and manual labor, as well as the growing appeal of working with your hands.

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