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 email@example.com.
CertaPro, a house painting franchise, has a motto that "painting is personal." When Jeremy and Jennifer Rhett became franchisees 15 years ago, however, they didn't realize just how much that motto would one day mean to them. In 2013, the couple used the franchise's infrastructure and economic stability to found a non-profit organization dedicated to training teachers to help struggling readers. Here's what the pair has learned.
Name: Jeremy and Jennifer Rhett
Franchise owned: CertaPro Painters of Atlanta
How long have you owned a franchise?
We opened in 2001. We purchased a second franchise territory in 2006.
Franchising and CertaPro Painters allows us to have the backing and the power of a national brand and the personal touch and warmth of a community, family-owned business.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
Jeremy was a software account executive. He had some experience with painting from his college days when he painted dorm rooms for a summer, then ran a house painting business for two years to fund his education. Jennifer was a senior marketing manager for a Fortune 100 company. We’ve both been able to bring experiences and knowledge from our past careers into this business which has helped us since day one.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
Although Jeremy had the knowledge and expertise to start a painting business without a franchise he recognized that having CertaPro Painters’ support would allow him to scale rapidly.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
$100,000 to cover franchise fee, startup capital, initial marketing expenses.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We participated in a Discovery Day with the franchisor to learn more about operations. We spoke with several franchisees, both successful ones and struggling owners. After speaking with several we found that you could almost predict from the personalities who would be successful and who would not. Those who had a positive attitude and an open approach to business seemed to do well. Since we put ourselves in that bucket we felt it would be a strong fit. We also analyzed the financial model thoroughly and saw that the economics made sense. Fifteen years later, we can see that it was great decision.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
CertaPro has so many great programs available to drive business and have a thriving operation it is very overwhelming for a new franchisee. You have to be very decisive about how you spend your time and which resources get your attention. It basically comes down to: Get organized, market, sell, produce, repeat. Now that we have a $2 million-plus operation we do the same things but have great staff to help so it is not such a heavy burden for us as owners.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Business owners need to have a very clear vision of where they are headed with the business. How it fits into your personal goals and professional goals is important to ponder. Anyone considering business ownership should spend time writing a vision statement that clearly defines what a successful business, successful personal life, and successful compliment of the two together will look like five years from now and 10 years from now. If you can do this and the opportunity still makes sense, then you will have a consistent set of values to reflect on at difficult times in the operation.
What’s next for you and your business?
Over the last couple of years we have truly embraced CertaPro’s concept that “Painting Is Personal” and made the business very personal for us. In 2013 we used its infrastructure and economic stability to found a non-profit organization, Reading is Essential for All People (REAP). REAP has been able to train hundreds of public school teachers in methods that help struggling readers. We would like to continue to follow this passion while expanding the business at a steady, healthy growth rate. We are moving into a new office building later this year that will also house REAP’s offices.
We believe this commitment is an important example for our employees as it demonstrates the values that we embrace as business owners and active members of our community. We are currently expanding our commercial staff, adding estimators and sales people. We are also focusing on growing the skills of our existing staff to take on more of the leadership roles moving forward. Ideally we will empower and incentivize our people to run the entire CertaPro Painters business while we work toward making REAP an independent organization that will continue to thrive without our direct day-to-day involvement.