Caring Transitions offers senior relocation services, downsizing and decluttering and estate liquidation solutions to families experiencing a life transition.We recently checked in with Michelle and Dennis Begg, owners of Caring Transitions First Coast in Jacksonville, Fla. to learn about their experiences starting a franchise. Here's what they shared:
When did open for business?
What made you want to become a business owner?
Michelle: It's basically our encore career. We both came from a corporate environment and decided we were done after 20 and 30 years, respectively. We weren't ready to retire and decided to open this business to give back to seniors.
Did you seek out a specific franchise or research several before making your decision?
Michelle: We researched several before making the decision, more or less doing Internet research. For the franchises we were interested in we had conversations with their sales departments. We looked at market segments, what markets did we think were growing and what types of things did we want to try.
How did you find this particular opportunity and what compelled you to ultimately purchase it?
Michelle: When I left my corporate career in 2009 I'd assessed Caring Transitions at that time. For various reasons, it wasn't the right fit. Fast forward six or seven years and Dennis came across it again and we decided to pursue it and see if it was the right fit.
Did you speak with other current franchisees about their experiences before making your decision?
Michelle: Yes, we did. We did a full market background check and assessment and spoke to several other franchisees. Those conversations were very helpful.
What was your experience like working with the franchisor during the decision-making process?
Michelle: Overall, it was a positive experience. We did a meet-the-team day at their corporate headquarters where we met the leadership team for Caring Transitions.
Dennis: I think the only part that I wish was different, but I understand the rationale, had to do with truly understanding the revenue potential was difficult for us. The reason for that - and I commend the franchise team for this - they were clear on costs, but in terms of revenue generation, they left that to you to sort out or determine. They didn't want to get into false advertising, people thinking they were going to get make millions overnight.
How would you rate the training and support offered by the franchisor?
Michelle: Overall, it's excellent. One of the reasons that we bought into Caring Transitions was because we thought that overall we'd achieve great value and part of that was the comprehensive training. We spent one week at corporate headquarters and one week in field with one of their most successful franchisees. We've also had weekly follow-up calls and a visit from one of the corporate team members.
Dennis: The reason we went the franchise route was that we wanted to get proven business models, proven revenue models and the business process to support the revenue side.
Did you employ the services of an accountant and/or franchise attorney and if so, how important were they in the decision making process?
Dennis: We did employ a franchise attorney. It was critically important. We went through the contract by sentence - every "i" dotted and "t" crossed.
What is the best part about being a franchise owner?
Michelle: I would say - I don't know if I'd say it's about the franchise or just being a business owner - but we are finding this deeply gratifying working in the senior industry - helping seniors and their families who are going through relocation. It's been gratifying when senior walks into new home and are in awe. We're in a very gratifying industry and the services we are providing are making a difference.
Dennis: After being in corporate for 30 years, it's very nice to be able to not have the red tape, but also be directly accountable for the success or failure of the organization. Now, we live and die by the decisions we make here.
What has been the most difficult aspect of owning a franchise?
Dennis: For me, I would say right now because we're still in the startup curve, it's the emotional roller coaster, particularly in the first 90 days. You're going on the premise that you're making the right decisions, but you don't have results. You're going by faith.
Michelle: I always knew it would work.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about purchasing a franchise?
Dennis: Dig into the details of a contract and truly know what you're getting into. And do thorough market analysis so you know what you're getting into so you can layout your business plan.
Do all your homework, don't expect that corporate will feed it to you. They will give you a good structure and good support but it's your business, they don't know your market and don't know all the facets of your business.
What I see when I look at other franchisees - the ones who are successful are entrepreneurial. They take what corporate gives them and run with it.
The ones that continue to look for corporate to answer and solve every problem for them are the ones who end up needing remedial training. At some point you have to take training wheels off.
It's a bad plan to rely solely on franchise.
What was the most important step during the exploration process in your opinion?
Dennis: For me, one is getting into the type of work that you're going to love. Do you really understand the market analysis? What's the market size? What's the competition? How easily can it be duplicated? Is the market growing or shrinking?
Try to do an analysis on what you think the market will bear in terms of revenue. A lot of people try to put together a budget and determine costs. That's great, but it doesn't say if it's going to generate revenue.
Is there anything else you would you like to tell us about your experience becoming a franchise owner?
Dennis: the other thing I would say that I really value - more than the corporate support - the Caring Transitions franchisees really create a community that's fostered by corporate. Working with other teams in my territory has been more valuable to me than corporate. Corporate has been really good, but when you go visit someone and you have conversations with someone - during the startup phase it really makes a big difference.
Michelle: I'm going to add as well, make sure you have for any franchise you need to have one person in charge of marketing and sales and one person in charge of operations. You are only going to grow in first 90 days as much as you're out in the community driving awareness of your brand. One person cannot do both. We saw struggling franchisees with strong operations background who didn't want to do marketing and sales. It's near impossible to do the entire business well when you're trying to juggle both sides of it.
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