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.
When Kevin Ortner began his "search for new adventures" being laid off as a corporate pilot, he knew he was interested in property management. So, he set out to find a company that was focused on innovation. In an often "old school" industry, Ortner believed that Renters Warehouse could bring a fresh perspective. He became the franchise's first franchisee, and hasn't looked back since. Here's what he's learned.
Name: Kevin Ortner
Franchise owned: Renters Warehouse in Phoenix
How long have you owned a franchise?
I’ve owned this franchise for five and a half years, having opened the Phoenix office in January 2010.
I didn’t want to reinvent the wheel. Franchises are a great way to partner with others with a similar vision as your own.
With a franchise I was able to hit the ground running and grow faster, given that there’s less of a learning curve or ramp up than starting a business fresh from scratch. With a franchise, you get great support from others and there are already systems and processes in place that you can make your own. Everything from marketing plans and contracts to predefined advertising campaigns – these systems helped greatly and allowed me to focus on running the business, rather than spending time on things that I’m not as specialized in.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was actually a corporate pilot! I started in the aviation industry just after high school and had started a flight school before moving into flying jet planes for corporate clients. Real estate was always a hobby of mine but then it turned into a career once I had been laid off and began my search for new adventures.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I had wanted to get into the property management business for some time, as I was extremely passionate about real estate and real estate investing. I loved the residual income stream that a successful property management company was able to provide.
I was an early adopter for Renters Warehouse as I was their first franchisee. I saw a huge potential for this brand since they were so focused upon doing everything so differently from everyone else. Other franchises in this industry are quite ‘old school,’ whereas Renters Warehouse has a culture focused on innovation and on delivering great experiences for homeowners and tenants thanks to our strong use of technology.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Overall, for our franchise, the cost breakdown is as follows:
- $30,000 Franchise fee
- $5,000 Startup Kit (includes website, business cards, flyers and other assorted marketing materials)
- $2,500 on office space and office equipment
- $2,500 on miscellaneous costs
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I started out talking to people in the property management and real estate industry including investors, and real estate agents, to get to know what was good about it and what was lacking. Through these discussions, many noted that the industry lacked innovation and technology. Most of the ‘good old boys’ in this market are managing hundreds of properties using a spreadsheet.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
When we were a very young company, hiring people was much harder than I had thought, as we were both an unknown brand and a new business. As an employer, people are taking a chance on you as much as you are on them. You need to give them a good reason to do so. It’s important to communicate your vision and get their buy-in.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
Make sure to do your research, first and foremost. Speak with people in the franchise industry and those using other franchise systems.
Be sure to look for companies who are taking steps to address current problems in the industry that you’re interested in. Find the innovators, as they will be the ones who will be driving business growth. Seek out those who recognize the problems within the industry and find the franchise that will address these issues with the most innovative solutions.
Also, know that franchises aren’t a get rich quick scheme, but require lots of hard work. The first three to five years are hardest but if you are able to grow a great business with a great brand, it’s possible to build great wealth and financial stability.
What’s next for you and your business?
We’re in the process of reinvesting as much as we can into our business. We’ve hired four new employees in the past month, increasing our office staff from 7 to 11 property managers, and have increased the number of leasing agents in the field to more than 20. We’re also investing in technology to help us manage this growth and increasing our advertising efforts to help spread the word.
Our overall goal for 2015 is to double our business.
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