One of the biggest decisions for individuals with a relentless entrepreneurial itch is deciding what business opportunity to pursue. There are a great deal of industries and sub industries to choose from. For some individuals, after deciding what industry or business venture to pursue, the next decision is whether to start a business from scratch or use a proven system designed for potential franchise owners. With so many options the decision process can be very daunting; and for individuals with little to no experience running a fulltime business, the choice could be a matter of success or failure. Either way, for those determined to own a business, the experience is worth the challenge. For me, my choice, though very challenging, was one of the best choices I have made. I am a current franchise business owner and I am extremely satisfied.
I had the entrepreneurial itch since middle school. Growing up in the Washington DC area, my family did not have much money for basic needs, let alone for extra-curricular activities. I delivered newspapers, cut grass and shoveled snow to supplement my family’s income until I graduated high school and joined the Navy at age eighteen. Even during my twenty two years in the Navy, I started several small businesses to satisfy the itch. I had a design and printing business, a community lawn cutting business and was looking into starting a consulting business immediately after I retired.
Though I still had the entrepreneurial itch when I retired from the military, I decided to go the safe route and got a nine to five job as a Director of Operations for a local 7,000-member mega-church. I did not fully appreciate it at the time, however serving as an operations director set me up, as most experiences do, for the current phase of my life as a franchise owner. Don’t discount any current or previous experiences in your life, good or bad; they have an amazing way of creating the perfect path to your purpose in the future.
In 2010, four years into my tenure as the church’s director of operations, I decided to stop working and go to college, fulltime. The stop working part was very short lived due to a major change in my personal life. I was getting a divorce. With three kids in college, attending college myself and dealing with this major personal matter, I began looking for opportunities to fill the newly created financial gap in my life. I went to a military job fair in Norfolk VA and ran across a franchise owner looking to hire part time cleaners and an Operations Manager for his cleaning company.
At first, I was told I was somewhat over qualified, but I explained how I was intrigued and inspired by the company’s boldly displayed core values and that I was willing to work hard, even if it was part time, and that no honest job was really beneath me. I truly believed I could bring value to his company and the opportunity would be mutually beneficial. The company’s core values, displayed on the banner at the job fair, reminded me of the core values I learned and strived for during my time in the Navy.
After multiple interviews, I was hired as the operations manager and was overseeing one hundred employees and sixty accounts. Over the next year working with this franchise owner, I learned a tremendous amount about the cleaning industry, leadership and myself. The owner saw great potential in me and knew I was looking to start my own business. He also admired my passion to help others and highly encouraged me to consider becoming a franchise owner as well. I did not immediately feel like owning a commercial cleaning franchise was the route I wanted to take. I never intended to be working in the cleaning industry, however, when I was attending Regent University, I personally witnessed a need for job creation while researching school projects as the Vice President of my college’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team.
After reviewing several different franchise opportunities from fast food restaurants, church security to managerial services, the commercial cleaning business lent the best opportunity to start building a company capable of hiring those in need. My own need to fill an income gap created empathy for others with the same need. This was the perfect opportunity to meet that need.
In 2011, I had an ambitious vision to create three hundred jobs. I was able to scramble up enough capital to put a down payment on the purchase of a franchise. I moved to Richmond Virginia and started my journey of business ownership. It was like starting a whole new life. Unlike some business startups, the franchise training prepared me for the challenges ahead and provided assistance through the tumultuous journey. Although I was well trained and supported and very excited about the venture I was embarking on, struggles and challenges soon presented themselves in droves.
One of the few things that I didn’t fully appreciate was the financial resources required to rapidly grow a business. Because I started with so little and was growing so fast with limited cash flow, the cost of doing business, at times, was overwhelming. Nevertheless, devoted to the dream, I gave up more than most would. I lost an apartment, a car, sleep, comfort and time with family and friends—for a season—in order to see my business grow. Though, I was with a franchise, I knew I was ultimately responsible for the success or failure of my business. But ultimately being with a franchise system provided incredible support and helped me discover creative ways to finance my company’s growth. I also received much needed encouragement from close friends, family members as well as other successful franchise owners who had similar experiences.
Mike and employee, Shawn Cooper empty a carpet extractor. Jackson believes in hands on experience and understanding the equipment his team is using. He is often heard saying that he never tells any employee to do something that he has not done or is not willing to do.
Four years after purchasing my franchise, I reached a half million in yearly revenue, I have forty employees and fifty commercial client locations. I recently got re-married and can better see the path God brought me through to get to this very moment. It has not been easy but I am on my way to making my vision a reality.
I am living proof that there are many factors that determine the success of a business, a sense of purpose, sheer determination, belief in oneself and a few key supporters can be enough to make it happen. One of the key reasons I was able to ultimately find success was due to the support I received from the Office Pride corporate staff. Their core values, brand promise and support helped me sustain my business growth, even during the tough times.