Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dave and Jerry Kahn know the PostNet system inside out – they've been franchisees for 21 years. However, they've never grown complacent as owners of a design, shipping and printing company. Instead, they've spent the last two decades innovating and evolving. In 2014, the pair won the company's "Franchisee of the Year" award. Here's what they've learned.
Name: Dave and Jerry Kahn
Franchise owned: PostNet in Lake Forest, Ill.
How long have you owned a franchise?
I’m proud to say we are one of the oldest PostNet franchises, having opened 23 years ago.
I had no experience in business but knew I wanted to have my own company so I could achieve financial security. The PostNet franchise opportunity provided the business know-how, training and technological support to operate my own business.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
My background is a chemist and I worked at the Northwestern University medical school as a research technician.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I was impressed with the business experience and knowledge of the PostNet founders. They had a solid track record of successfully opening mail and parcel stores so I knew they could help me.
The partnership has paid off. For more than two decades, PostNet has pushed us to remain competitive by continuously evolving our services to adapt to shifts in technological and customer demands. When we started, 80 percent of our profits was from packing and shipping for consumers who walked into our store off the street. Today, we are a much more robust Neighborhood Business Center that meets the design, shipping, print and general consultative marketing needs of the growing small business community.
Why did you become a franchisee?
My story is slightly unconventional. Before PostNet franchises existed, the founders helped me open an independent mail and parcel shop. About six months later, they launched the PostNet franchising program.
I had benefited greatly from their consultation, so I jumped at the opportunity to partner with them on a closer level. I converted my store to a PostNet franchise so I could receive more assistance with training, evaluating vendors, installing the right technology and more.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I estimate we spent about $50,000 in build-out costs on our store. I was already affiliated with PostNet through my independent shop so the franchise fee was waived. Today, the total investment to open a PostNet franchise ranges from $167,067 to $205,550.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
Initially, I looked at several different franchises. Then, I went to a franchise show in New Jersey in the early '90s. That’s where I met the founders of PostNet and was drawn to the opportunity.
After our PostNet center was up and running, I leaned heavily on the franchise to learn how to market our services in vertical markets. I gain general business advice from peers in networking groups and customers who have served as senior executives at large corporations. They provide a different perspective on how to grow our business.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
One of the main ones was additional expenses we didn’t anticipate. It takes a little while to figure out the rhythm of your business and for us that meant what equipment we needed. We had one black-and-white copier when we opened and we quickly realized that wouldn’t service our customers. They expected high-end equipment so we had to upgrade. Plus, within our first year, we had to put in a second point-of-sale system because we were taking in a lot more customers.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
I would tell them to do their due diligence, check everything out about the franchise they are considering and meet with the leadership team. I would also recommend adding 30 percent capital to your start-up budget so you’re comfortable in the event unexpected expenses occur.
What’s next for you and your business?
I’m moving into retirement and my son Jerry, who’s now the general manager, will take over the business. That’s what we planned all along and we’re thankful PostNet has allowed us to create a legacy.