is Entrepreneur’s Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. In celebration of Memorial Day, we're running a series celebrating veterans in franchising. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email.
For Gordon Dupries, it wasn't just enough to own a franchise – he wanted to help others do the same. In addition to operating three HWC Packing and Crating locations, he helps advise others in the franchising industry through consultancy FranNet. Plus, to assist other veterans, Dupries leads the Boot to Business program, which helps veterans get placed with the right franchise. Here's some of his biggest tips for anyone who wants to own their own franchise.
Name: Gordon Dupries, U.S. Coast Guard
Franchise owned: HWC Packing and Crating, Marin County, Cal. As well as FranNet in San Francisco/Bay Area
How long have you owned the franchise?
HWC was my first franchise which ultimately had three locations. I owned it for five years and was approached with a very attractive offer at which time I sold it. With FranNet, I have assisted hundreds of successful clients with my knowledge of the franchise industry, research techniques, financing strategies and long list of professional contacts.
Going back to my first business and franchise, I simply did not have any ideas I felt confident enough in to invest my savings. Nothing I could think of seemed that exciting until I found a franchise that appeared to be a good fit. I also did not know how to do a business plan, market analysis or calculate startup costs and working capital requirements. A “good” franchise was the solution.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
After my time served in Vietnam with the Coast Guard, I was a senior traffic and logistics administrator for Bechtel Corporation, a very large engineering management and construction company with projects all over the world.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I chose a franchise that was interesting to me, utilized areas of my background and appeared to be unique with limited competition in my area.
How did your experience in the military prepare you for franchise ownership?
My experience in the military has been invaluable and I am thankful every day for what I learned. It was through the military that I gained the confidence to lead at a young age, understand team work, the value of continuing education, how to follow a system, meeting deadlines, respect senior authority and the true meaning of friendship.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Franchise fee for three locations: $45,000
Furniture, fixtures and equipment: $50,000
Used van: $10,000
Training travel expenses: $1,500
Working capital: $20,000
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
I had no one to go to for advice and my research was based primarily on contacting potential customers to see what they would be looking for in a business.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
Finding the right locations and becoming comfortable with property leases. Also, hiring the right employees, learning to delegate and charging enough stay in business but keep customers.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
As luck would have it, the franchise I have owned for over 20 years now, FranNet, is in the business of helping people with advice on how to buy the right franchise. I’m proud to say I’m a founding member and we are considered one of the premier match making services in our field. Our materials and personal assessment provides answers to this question and more. As an example I would consider the following:
- Do you have a track record of success in the military or civilian world?
- Do you look at the world and think I can do better?
- Are you a self-starter, can meet deadlines and can lead others?
- Can you make a decision after you have all the facts?
- Do you have family support in your decision to make a business investment?
- Are you familiar with the government agencies like the SBA, SCORE and SBDC’s that are there to provide assistance in your business research?
- Are you one who is looking to build wealth, control and flexibility for yourself and family?
- Can you follow a system and know how to be a team player?
- Can you understand numbers and work with professionals in business such as real-estate, bookkeeping, finance, legal and accounting professionals who are there to assist you?
- Can you use technology and are you open to new ideas and ways of doing things?
- Are you willing learn from others who have experience in your franchise and can provide the insight and coaching you need?
- Do you have a location you would like to settle in for 3-5 years?
- Can you afford to lose the money you invested and move on with life?
- Is the franchise registered in your state?
- Can you afford to cover you living expenses while your business grows?
- Do you have the funds to cover startup costs?
- Have you calculated enough working capital to break even and create net profit?
- Will your franchise selection provide you with an attractive exist strategy when it’s time to sell or retire?
- Are you interested in a legacy business to hand over to the kids?
Those are just a few ideas off the top of my head…
What advice do you have for other veterans who want to own their own franchise?
Learn about the many programs franchisors have established with the International Franchise Association for veteran assistance. Ask the franchisor if they are part of the Vet Fran program that offers discounts on the franchise fee paid to the franchisor for acquiring the rights to their franchise. Contact the Small Business Administration for programs to help with financing your franchise. Ask your accountant about the government tax incentives for veterans.
Attend a Boots to Business two day workshop provided by the military as part of the congressional mandate to help discharging military learn how to be entrepreneurs. Tell them Gordon sent you and he is very proud to be a member of the San Francisco SCORE chapter and an instructor at the program provided at Travis Air Force base every quarter. Oh and good luck! We thank you for your service!
What’s next for you and your business?
For many years, I never really understood what many of my colleagues meant when they told me; when you’re doing something you love, by the time you can retire you may not want to. I feel a little like that now. One of the wonderful advantages to being in your own boss is you can give yourself a raise, more vacation time or choose “not” to retire.