COUPLE CREDITS LEADERSHIP SKILLS LEARNED IN MILITARY WITH CREATING SUCCESSFUL FRANCHISE
From leaders in the military to leaders in their own business, Richard and Cindy Allen have taken what they’ve learned from their military service and applied it to their franchise.
The couple purchased their Jani-King franchise in December 2012 and have been growing ever since. They chose Jani-King, Richard said, because they were contacted by a few different franchising brokers when they started doing their initial research and the janitorial company just seemed like it had the most promise.
“Jani-King seemed to fit pretty well because of their local structure with a regional office and the fact that you were offered cleaning contracts based on your investment level. None of the other franchises that we looked at offered that,” Richard said during a recent interview from the couple’s franchise office in their home in north New Jersey.
Richard, who served in the military from 1980-86 and left as an infantry Captain, worked in sales in the building materials industry for over 20 years after his military career ended. Cindy, who served in the military from 1979-86 and left as a Captain in the Branch Medical Service Corps., worked in hospital administration in her post-military life.
The turning point for them wanting to purchase their own franchise came when Richard’s company was purchased by larger one and he was let go in the ensuing merger. He found himself without a job but with a decent severance package. However, he had signed a two-year non-compete agreement so he couldn’t go back into the industry he knew. This necessitated a fresh start and Cindy decided to join him in their new venture.
Becoming Franchisees After they signed their franchising agreement, Cindy said, they went through a full week of training at the Jani- King regional office. Then, after they secured their first couple of accounts, the operations people with the franchise worked with them as they started their first contract and helped them through the process of getting set up. The franchise representatives stayed with them for about two or three weeks as everything got up and running.
Plus, any time they’ve started a new type of building that requires specialty cleaning — such as healthcare facilities — they’ve received specialized training for that. To teach franchisees how to clean hospitals and healthcare centers, Jani-King sends up a dedicated team of instructors from Dallas who train franchisees how to clean these specialty buildings. They’ll teach franchisees how to operate and bill for a hotel and do pretty much everything for any new type of building, she added.
As for ongoing support and training, Jani- King has Introduced the couple to all the industry experts they’re associated with, such as janitorial product and equipment supply companies. There is an ongoing training element as they meet all these industry players and learn about their role in the janitorial industry.
The franchise also provides marketing support, advertising, billing, collections and business insurance. The business insurance is especially helpful, Cindy said, because Jani-King offers a business protection plan based on the amount of sales they have rather than being one flat rate.
While the franchise has been active for a while now, the couple is still getting used to the demands of being their own bosses. As with most new franchises, the work life balance has tipped a little more toward work.
“When you own your own business, you own your own business 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Cindy said. “So, you really can’t just not answer the phone. If somebody doesn’t show up, or an employee has an issue with one of your sites, you need to be available for that, but we knew that going in.”
Rather than Richard traveling two or three nights per week though, he does get to come home every night. Sometimes it’s late, she noted, but he always gets to come home, which is good.
For someone interested in joining the Jani- King franchise system, the couple said, they would tell them to know that it’s a lot different than working for a large company where there are teams of people to take care of IT, human resources, sales and operations. Fortunately with Jani-King, there is a local, regional office support team that assists with many of those tasks.
The couple admits that there have been growing pains while adjusting to franchise ownership. For example, they’ve taken on some accounts that they shouldn’t have because they were a little too eager to get as many accounts as they could. However, if a client is located three hours away and you’re only making $200 per month from that client, it may not be worth it.
“You just have to be selective in the accounts you take to make sure you leverage your resources appropriately,” Cindy advised. The couple currently has 35 employees and serve 30 clients.
Both Richard and Cindy credit their military service with giving them leadership skills that have helped them deal with their 30 employees. When you own a franchise, you have to be a sound leader, as well as an educator and a motivator and you need to be able to keep your team focused on the end goal and the military gave them those abilities.
“You never lose those leaderships skills that you learn in the military,” Cindy said. For the couple, the transition from being employees in large companies to business owners has been challenging at times, but ultimately fulfilling.