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.
Jeff Kelly loves sales. Being a BlueGrace Logistics franchisee offered him a chance to do what he wanted, while being the boss-- without laboring over the foundation and creation of the company. “Do something you love,” is now his first piece of advice for potential franchisees. Check out the rest of his eleven top tips, plus more, in his Franchise Players Q and A.
Name: Jeff Kelly
Franchise owned (location): BlueGrace Logistics, in Los Angeles
How long you have owned the franchise?
I’ve owned BlueGrace LA since 2011. We were one of the first franchises outside of the southeast region, where BlueGrace is headquartered.
I liked the idea that somebody else created the fundamental framework and foundation of the company, enabling me to get in and focus on my strengths. I could be the boss but spend my time doing what I wanted, which was sales.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I was working directly for Airborne Express as a sales rep. They were a small package express company which was purchased by DHL in 2003.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I had met Bobby, owner of BlueGrace, previously and was impressed with both him and his consistent success. There was always a big gap between him and everyone else. I saw his success and wanted to duplicate it. When I started spending time with Bobby, I realized he’s one of the most generous people, easy to address and talk with, very level headed. He’s willing to give and willing to educate. I knew his system and what he had was something new and exciting and something that I could help build from the early stages.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
I was an existing business before joining BlueGrace and the process of joining BlueGrace was seamless for me. Over the course of a 24 month period my costs were roughly:
- $50,000- overall start up fees
- $15,000- desks, phones, marketing materials, painting, legal, etc.
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
It was a combination of things. I looked at the competition and looked into everyone else that was out there. I talked to other business owners and successful individuals. I picked peoples’ brains in other franchise systems. I looked at their pricing, their technology, and their infrastructure. I spoke with other individuals I knew who had success and formed an educated decision based off that.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
The most unexpected challenge was how hard it is to find good people to hire. People that have all the personality traits, intelligence, aptitude, and self-motivation to help make themselves and by default, the company successful. It is honestly amazing just how difficult that is and remains to be.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
- Do something you love, if you can find it.
- Do your homework. Make sure you talk to and investigate the company you are interested in, as well as all of the competition. No matter which way you slice it, this new venture is going to be a massive investment in time, money, stress and overall emotional involvement. Make sure, as much as you can, that you are getting exactly what you are expecting to get, and hopefully better.
- Know your strengths. A lot of people can sell. Not everyone can manage, or create processes, or balance the books, create marketing materials, hire appropriately, manage day to day operations, etc. Identify where your strengths are then stretch yourself and try to improve in other areas, then hire accordingly in order of true priority.
- Don’t waste time. Every decision you make and every second of your day needs to be contributing to putting money in your pocket. Take care of your customers and make decisions based on both short and long term gains. Make sure that the “busy work” you do day in and day out is actually going to translate into gains. Nothing is worse than having a really great idea and spending stupendous amounts of time on it, just to realize that you neglected activities that would have put actual money in your pocket.
- Find the balance. Yes, you will work like crazy, probably harder than just about any other time in your life. Make sure you make time in your life for what is really important to you. I heard this and I try to live by it as well, “Never get so focused on making a living, that you forget…to make a life.”
- Set realistic expectations in terms of the amount of time you’re going/plan to invest in this new venture. If you think owning a business is a 9-5 job, DO NOT OPEN YOUR OWN BUSINESS. The 40 hour work is dead to you, at least in the short term
- Set realistic expectations for your return on investment. How long before you plan on getting your money back? How long before you are in the black? Are your estimations based on concrete fact or idealistic hopes? Don’t guess when you are going to be profitable, know it. Then go make it happen.
- Set realistic expectations for what is possible within certain time frames. How long will it take you to set up your first clients, office, hire staff, etc.?
- Set realistic expectations for financing, including how much money you are going to need to survive, as well as how much you should invest in infrastructure, from everything to employees to purchasing desks, pens – your overall investment. Special note: Plan on needing to tap into “your” money for at least 24 months -- would you be able to survive? Hopefully you will be in the black long before this but at least you will have a nice cushion to get you through it.
- As quickly as possible, figure out your processes. For example: How is someone going to answer the phone? How will email responses be structured? Who does what? Put together a plan of who you want to do what as you grow and expand
- Enjoy it. You are building something. Take pride in that EVERY…SINGLE….DAY. You are creating jobs, helping people and making your mark. You are taking on what most people never have the courage or strength to do. Enjoy it.
What’s next for you and your business?
Exponential growth. We were finally able to secure additional funding to hire more sales people. We have fantastic people and successful processes in place, with a wonderful and progressive company culture with BlueGrace and our local office. Tomorrow is even brighter than today. Anyone out there need any transportation or logistics services?